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Emile Zola in his last days 

T? 1\ M" T T? ^y /~*\ A 








" If, upon your side, you lave the testimony 
of your conscience ', and, against you, that of 
the multitude, take comfort, rest assured 
that time will do justice." DIDEROT 


THIS book is an attempt to chronicle the chief incidents 
in the life of the late fimile Zola, and to set out the various 
aims he had in view at different periods of a career which 
was one of the most strenuous the modern world has known. 
Virtually all his work is enumerated in the following pages, 
which, though some are given to argument and criticism, 
will be found crowded with facts. The result may not be 
very artistic, but it has been partially my object to show 
what a tremendous worker Zola was, how incessantly, how 
stubbornly, he practised the gospel which he preached. An 
attempt has been made also to show the growth of humani- 
tarian and reforming passions in his heart and mind, passions 
which became so powerful at last that the " novelist " in Zola 
seemed as nothing. Yet I do not think I can be charged with 
having neglected the literary side of his career. It is that 
which bulks most largely in the present volume, and that I 
think is as it should be ; for while Zola was certainly, and 
in some respects essentially, a Eeformer, the pen was the 
weapon with which he strove to effect his purposes. 

Designed more particularly for British and American 
readers, the book contains some passages which I should 
have abbreviated omitted perhaps if I had been address- 
ing a French audience. And some subjects, which, in that 
case, I might have treated more fully, have here been dealt 
with briefly. For instance, though I have enumerated all the 


plays that Zola wrote, and most of those founded by others 
on his works, I have not entered into any real discussion of 
his views respecting the stage, or of his indirect influence 
on it in France. I have thought it sufficient to indicate that 
such influence was exercised. A full examination of Zola's 
relations with the stage would have materially increased 
the length of a work which is long already, and which I 
have been anxious to keep within the scope of one volume 
a 'desire which has made my task more difficult than it 
would have been had I used my materials in all their fulness. 
But I am distinctly of opinion that biographies in several 
volumes have nowadays little chance of surviving, even for 
a moderate number of years. 

With respect to Zola's share in the Dreyfus case everybody 
will recognise, I think, how difficult it is to narrate the 
doings of any one individual in such an intricate mtUe without 
constant reference to the other combatants and explanation 
of the many points at issue. Nevertheless, though I fully 
recognise that the deliverance of Captain Dreyfus was not 
effected by Zola only, that many other able and whole-hearted 
men co-operated in that great achievement,! have endeavoured 
to disentangle Zola's share in the battle from that of the 
others, saying of them only what has seemed to me strictly 
necessary to explain his actions. I mention this in order 
that none may think me unjust towards Zola's fellow-fighters. 
And though in some introductory pages I have endeavoured 
to indicate the primary causes of the Affair, such as I think 
them to have been, in the hope that the reader may be better 
able to understand the fury of the fray, I have not plunged 
into a discussion of the Affair itself. Besides, M. Dreyfus's 
case is now once more before the Cour de Cassation, and 
reserve on a variety of matters has therefore become advis- 
able. Further, for some years already, a far abler pen than 
mine, wielded by one of far greater authority, M. Joseph 
Eeinach, has been retracing the many episodes of the Affair, 


and one may take it, I think, that " L J Histoire de 1* Affaire 
Dreyfus " will not end without casting light even on matters 
which may still seem obscure. 

In one of my chapters I mention an episode in Zola's 
private life, which is already known to so many people that 
it would have been ridiculous on my part to have attempted 
to conceal it, even if it had been right to do so, I will not 
enlarge on the subject here, for it is discussed in its proper 
place; I will merely reiterate my conviction that if a 
biographer may well be kind to the virtues and a little blind 
to the errors of a man he has loved it is nevertheless his 
duty to his readers to omit nothing that may be essential 
for a right understanding of the man's life. 

Further, in another section of the book, I have recounted 
the incidents of the prosecution instituted against my father 
with respect to certain translations of Zola's novels. And 
in this connection I have had occasion to say something 
about certain fanatics, and also about the attitude of the 
majority of the British newspaper press before it realised 
that Zola was not so black as it had painted him. Even 
after the lapse of long years, such matters and their con- 
sequences cannot be recalled by one who suffered by them 
without some feeling of resentment. It is true that in my 
preface to the English version of Zola's last book I expressed 
my acknowledgments to the press generally for the leniency, 
patience, and even favour that had been shown to me from 
the time I began to re-introduce Zola's works to the British 
public. Those acknowledgments I am quite ready to re- 
iterate, in despite of the matters with which I deal in a 
chapter of the present book, for those matters belong to an 
earlier period. But a sense of duty and justice to my father, 
to my brothers and other relatives, to myself as well, has 
made it impossible for me to overlook the period in question, 
and what I regard largely as its aberrations. Besides, in a 
book intended for English readers, it is only fit that the 


attitude of the English, public towards Zola should be dealt 

Most of the illustrations accompanying my text are from 
photographs, several of them taken specially for this book ; 
but I have to express my acknowledgments to the pro- 
prietors of the Illustrated London News for their kind per- 
mission to reproduce various views of the rooms in which 
much of Zola's life was spent* 

E. A. V. 

March, 1904= 





II EARLY YEARS : 1840-1860 24 


1866 53 

IV IN THE FURNACE OF PARIS: 1866-1868 . . 80 

1872 109 

VI THE PATH OF SUCCESS: 1872-1877 . . . . 140 


VIII THE BATTLE CONTINUED: 1881-1887 . . . 206 

IX THE BRITISH PHARISEES: 1884-1893 . . . 242 

1888-1893 300 



DEPARTURE: 1893-1897 390 

XIII THE DREYFUS CASE: 1894-1900 419 

XIV LAST YEARS DEATH: 1901-1902 .... 493 



A. Declaration of Zola's birth 541 

B. Declaration of Ms death 

C. Note on some English translations of his novels 

INDEX 547 


I Entile Zola in his Last Days frontispiece 

II The Birthplace of Emile Zola To face page 18 

III Dam and Reservoir of the Zola Canal ... 40 

IV Zola's Home, Impasse Sylvacanne, Aix ... 72 

V The Boulevard Zola and the Banks of the 

Arc, Aix 110 

VI Emile Zola, 1876-1880 144 

VII Zola's Home at Mddan 184 

VIII Zola in his Study 224 

IX Emile Zola, 1888-1890 240 

X Aix-in-Provence, the Plassans of his Books . 272 

XI Fac- simile Letter from Zola to E. A. Vizetelly 320 

XII Denise and Jacques 352 

XIII Maitre Labori 384 

XIV Zola writing ' Ftomditd " at Walton ... 416 
XV Penn, and Summer field, Surrey 432 

XVI Penn from the Garden, and Fac-simile Card 

from Zola to Vizetelly 448 

XVII fimile Zola, September, 1898 464 

XVIII Zola's Dining-room 476 

XIX Mme. Zola at the Queen's Hotel, Norwood . 488 

XX Zola's Bedroom 512 

XXI M. Anatole France speaking at Zola's Funeral 522 




The meaning of " Zola " Localities of that name The Zola family of 
Brescia and Venice Giovanni Battista Zola, saint and martyr The 
Abate Giuseppe Zola and his chequered career The military Zolas of 
Venice Benedetta ELiariaki and her offspring Francesco, father of 
lilmile Zola His military training He becomes an engineer and plans 
one of the first " railways " in Europe His service in the French For- 
eign Legion and its strange ending He plans new docks for the port of 
Marseilles His schemes for fortifying Paris and providing Are in 
Provence with water He meets Franchise iSmilie Aubert His roman- 
tic courtship and marriage Hia home in the Rue St. Joseph, Paris 
Birth of }mile Zola Literature in England, America, and France in 
1840 The birth of lilmile Zola followed by that of Alphonse Daudet 
Contrasting characteristics of those writers, 

IT has been contended, with, some plausibility, that the 
Italian word zola is simply a variant of zolla, which means, 
in a restricted sense, a clod or lump of earth, and, in a broader 
one, the glebe or soil. This circumstance has suggested to 
certain detractors of Bmile Zola and his writings the scornful 
remark that he was at least well named, having been, indeed, 
of the earthf earthy. Others have retorted, however, that he 
may well have taken pride in such association, for, far from 
disowning his Mother Earth, he acknowledged and proclaimed 
her beneficence, showed himself her worthy son, and a true 
and zealous brother to all compounded of her clay. In the 
course of the present memoir it will become necessary to 

examine the blame and praise so freely showered upon Zola 



by Ms enemies and his admirers ; but this can be done irre- 
spective of any such fanciful consideration as the alleged 
meaning of his name. All discussion of that meaning may 
be left to philologists and those who are superstitiously in- 
clined to detect predestination in nomenclature. At the 
same time, it may be as well to point out that the name of 
Zola is borne by several localities in Northern Italy, For 
instance, there are two villages so called in Lombardy, one 
near Palestro in the province of Pavia, and another in 
the Valle di sotto, province of Sondrio. In the Emilia, 
moreover, towards Bologna, there is the small but ancient 
township of Zola-Predosa, which takes its name from two 
castellanies united early in the fourteenth century. And as 
far south as Tuscany, in the province of Florence, one finds a 
village called Zola incorporated in the Comune di Terra del 
Sole, and yet another which is named Zola di Modigliana. 
If, as is possible, the family to which Emile Zola belonged 
derived its patronymic from some specific locality, this may 
well have been one of the Lombardian Zolas ; for though all 
the published accounts of the great novelist's progenitors 
associate them chiefly with Venice, it is certain that they 
were long connected with Brescia, Lombardy's fairest city, 
and one which passed for a time under Venetian rule. 

The first notable Zola of whom some account has been 
preserved was a certain Giovanni Battista, born at Brescia 
between 1570 and 1580. Educated for the Church, he joined 
the Society of Jesus, and, in or about 1600, proceeded to 
Groa as a missionary. From India he made his way to 
Japan, whither St. Francis Xavier and others, following 
Mendez Pinto, had carried the cross half a century earlier, 
Eeniarkable success attended the first endeavours of the 


Jesuit missionaries among the Japanese, but their principles 
were incompatible with tolerance. Throwing caution to the 
winds, they dictated when they should have been content to 
teach and persuade, destroyed native shrines, and plotted 
with disaffected nobles, in such wise that Christianity, after 
recruiting, it is said, some two hundred thousand adherents 
in the realm of the Rising Sun, was placed under interdict 
by the Emperor. Terrible slaughter ensued, and among 
those who perished at the hands of the Shintoists and 
Buddhists was the zealous Giovanni Battista Zola. In our 
own times, under the pontificate of Pius IX, he was placed, 
like the other holy martyrs of Japan, among the saints of 
the Roman Catholic Church. 

At the confluence of the eighteenth and nineteenth 
centuries, another 'Zola, likewise a Churchman, rose to a 
position of some eminence. This was the Abate Giuseppe 
Zola, born in 1739 at Concesio, near Brescia, in which city 
he became successively librarian, professor of morals, and 
rector of the university. But he was a man of broad 
views, one whose dream was to reform and rejuvenate the 
Church even like Abb Pierre Fromentin ^mile Zola's 
"Lourdes" and "Rome." In 1771 the theological views 
professed by Giuseppe Zola brought him into conflict with 
his Bishop and the Jesuits. He was forced to quit the 
university; a three-volume work which he had written 
on the early Christians prior to Constantino and two vol- 
umes of his theological lectures were denounced to the 
Congregation of the "Index expurgatorius " ; and in this 
instance also like Abb6 Pierre Froment he journeyed 
to Rome in the hope of justifying himself. In the end 
once more anticipating Abb Pierre he had to make his 


submission. Then, for three years, he remained at Rome, 
teaching morals; hut the influence of his enemies, the 
Jesuits, was waning, and not long after the promulgation 
of G-anganelli's historic hrief suppressing Loyola's Order, 
Zola obtained an appointment as rector and professor of 
ecclesiastical history at a seminary for Hungarian students, 
established at Pavia by the Emperor Joseph II. 

He proved a zealous partisan of that monarch's reforms ; 
he imagined, too, that the suppression of the Jesuits meant 
the dawn of a new era for the Church. Thus he indulged 
fearlessly in advanced religious and political views, his per- 
suasive eloquence carrying most of the professors of Pavia 
with him. The Church then again treated him as a rebel ; 
he was accused of infecting his seminary with heresy ; and 
not only was he deprived of his rectorship, but the institu- 
tion itself was closed. At last came the French Revolution ; 
and the victories of the Republican arms in Italy brought 
Zola the professorships of history, jurisprudence, and diplo- 
macy at the Pavian University. During the brief revival of 
Austrian rule (1799-1800) he was once more cast out, to 
be reinstated, however, immediately after Marengo. The 
last important incident of his life was a journey to Lyons as 
one of the Lombardian deputies whom Napoleon summoned 
thither when he constituted his Kingdom of Italy. A year 
later, 1806, Giuseppe Zola passed away at his native place. 
He was a man of cpnsiderable erudition, broad sympathies, 
and untiring energy. Besides writing a dozen volumes on 
theological and historical subjects, he edited and annotated 
numerous books, 1 invariably turning to literature for conso- 

1 Only one of Giuseppe Zola's works " Lezioni di Storia delle Leggi e di 
Costume de f popoH," etc., Milan, 1809 is in the British Museum Library. 
Among the others, in addition to the volumes placed in the '* Index expurga- 


lation amid the vicissitudes of Ms career, which lias been 
recounted here at some little length because it is of a sugges- 
tive nature when one remembers that the Abate Giuseppe 
was a kinsman of the progenitors of Emile Zola. 

Those progenitors belonged to a branch of the family 
which had established itself at Venice, and which became 
noted for its men of the sword, even as the Brescian branch 
was noted for its Churchmen. The Zolas of Venice held 
military rank under the last Doges, then under the Cisal- 
pine Eepublic, and eventually under Napoleon as King of 
Italy. Two of them fell in the great conqueror's service, 
one then holding the rank of colonel, the other that of 
major. A third, who became a colonel of engineers and 
inspector of military buildings, married a young girl of the 
island of Corfu, which had been subject to Venice since the 
close of the fourteenth century. Her name was Benedetta 
Kiariaki, and she introduced a Greek element into the Zola 
blood. It seems probable that she had several children, 
among whom were certainly two sons. The elder, called 
Marco, became a civil engineer, and rose to the highest rank 
in the State roads-and-bridges service. He had three chil- 
dren, two daughters named respectively Benedetta and 
Catarina, and a son, Carlo. Benedetta died unmarried, while 
Catarina was wedded to Cavaliere Antonio Petrapoli of 
Venice ; but their only offspring, a daughter, was snatched 
from them in her childhood. 

Carlo Zola, meantime, followed the profession of the law, 
and, after the foundation of the present Kingdom of Italy 

torius," were some elaborate commentaries on the history of the Church (3 
vols., 1780-1786), a dissertation on the theological authority of St. Augustine, 
a treatise on Death, etc. 


(1866), was appointed a judge of the Appeal Court of Brescia, 
He died comparatively few years ago. Contemporary with 
him there were other Venetian and Brescian Zolas, cousins, 
presumably, of various degrees. In family letters of the first 
half of the last century, one reads of a Lorenzo, a Giuseppa, 
a Marius, and a Dorina Zola, but all these have passed 
away ; and at the present time (1903) the only representa- 
tive of the family in Italy would seem to be the Signora 
Emma Fratta, nSe Zola, a widow lady with four children. 

But, besides Marco Zola, Benedetta Kiariaki, the Corfiote, 
had a son called Francesco in his earlier years, and Frangois 
after he took up his residence in France. As a matter of 
fact he bore four Christian names, Francesco Antonio 
Giuseppe Maria which maybe taken as some indication 
of the family's gentle status. In the present narrative, in 
which it is necessary to speak of him at some little length, 
for he became the father of mile Zola, it may be best to 
call him Francois. He was born at Venice on August 8, 
1795, and entered the Eoyal Military School of Pavia in 
October, 1810. A corporal-cadet in March, 1811, a serjeant 
two months later, he obtained his first commission, as a 
sub-lieutenant in the Fourth Light Infantry, in April, 1812. 
In July of the same year he was transferred to the Royal 
Italian Artillery, with the rank of lieutenant. He was then 
only seventeen. Until the collapse of the Napoleonic King- 
dom of Italy in 1814 he served under the viceroy Prince 
Eugene Beauharnais; and his regiment being afterwards 
incorporated in the Austro-Italian forces, he remained with 
it till 1820. 1 

* "La YeMt en Marche," by $mile Zola, Paris, 1901, p. 259, (Docu- 
ments in the Dossier 2Pran9ois Zola at the French War Office. ) 


But the exile of Napoleon to St. Helena had brought 
Europe a period of peace, and some leisure fell to the lot 
even of, military men in active service. In all probability 
the " First Light Battery," to which Francois Zola belonged, 
was stationed at Padua ; in any case, while still in the army, 
the young man perfected his studies at the Paduan Univer- 
sity and secured the degree of doctor in mathematics. In 
1818 he published a treatise on levelling ground, 1 which 
was adopted by the authorities at Milan (the capital of the 
Austrian dominions in Italy) as a text-book for the engi- 
neers of their roads-and-bridges service, and which procured 
for the young author, then three and twenty, the title of 
Associate of the Academy of Sciences, Letters, and Arts of 
Padua. 2 

If in 1820 he withdrew from military service, it was, as 
shown by a document in his own handwriting, preserved at 
the French War Office, because the Austrian Emperor " had 
been graciously pleased to order the introduction of the 
bastinado into his Italian regiments " ; but although Fran$ois 
Zola denounced this as a barbarous proceeding, he does not 
appear to have entertained any hatred of the Austrians 
generally. From a speech delivered at his funeral, one 
gathers that on quitting the army he worked under his 
brother Marco, then chief inspector of roads and bridges, 
became a properly qualified engineer, and was eventually 
sent to Upper Austria on some official surveying business. 
While there, he became acquainted with the Bitter von 
Gerstner and an engineer named Bergauer, in conjunction 

1 "Trattato di Livellazione topografica," by Francesco Zola, Dr. in Math., 
Lieut, Padua, 1818. 8vx>. 

2 Funeral oration on F. Zola, by Maltre Labot, Advocate at the Bar of the 
French Council of State, 


with whom lie constructed the first tramway line laid down 
on the continent of Europe. 1 

It has "been called a railway, and such it undoubtedly 
was, though not in the sense usually given to the word 
"railway" nowadays; for relays of horses were employed 
for traction. The line extended from Linz on the Danube 
to Budweis in Bohemia, a distance of seventy-eight miles ; 
and though it seems to have been largely devised for the 
transport of timber from the Bohemian forests to the great 
waterway, there was also a passenger service, which still 
existed in our time. 2 

While constructing this line, Zola, in June, 1823, obtained 
personally the imperial authorisation to make another one, 
connecting Linz with G-munden and the Salzkammergut 
the so-called "Austrian Switzerland," industrially important 
for its extensive salt-works. But he became disappointed 
with the financial results of the Budweis line, and, accord- 
ingly, in September, 1830, he sold the Gmunden concession. 
It seems likely that he had then already quitted Austria. 
There are indications that he may have visited England 
with Eitter von Gerstner, and have sojourned for a time 
in Holland; but before the end of 1830 he was certainly in 
France, writing to King Louis Philippe respecting a scheme 
he had devised for the fortification of Paris. In the spring 
of 1831 he was in communication with the French War 
Office on this same subject, whilst also soliciting an appoint- 
ment in the Foreign Legion, in Algeria, with the rank of 

1 Documents printed by the " Neue Freie Presse " of Vienna (No. 12,028, 
February 17, 1898) and quoted in " LePere d'imile Zola," by Jacques Dhur, 
Paris, 1899. 

a Baedeekefs "Southern Germany and Austria," 1871. 


captain. 1 The fortification scheme was shelved, but the ap- 
pointment was granted, excepting in one respect : it was as 
a lieutenant, not as a captain, that Franois Zola entered 
the Foreign Legion in July, 1831. 

His career in that corps proved very brief, and ended 
strangely. Many years afterwards an unprincipled journal- 
ist, anxious to discredit 32mile Zola's championship of Cap- 
tain Dreyfus, raked up the episode in order to denounce 
the novelist as the son of a thief. But it is certain that 
some documents cited at the time were entirely forged, that 
others were falsified in part, and that others, again, were 
suppressed. This can occasion no surprise when it is re- 
membered that one of the dossiers concerning Francois Zola, 
preserved at the French War Office, passed for a time into 
the possession of the notorious forger, Colonel Henry; 2 and 
that an unscrupulous Minister, General Billot, by asserting 
authoritatively that certain papers did not exist, 3 contrived 
to delay their discovery. Those matters will require notice 
hereafter; at this stage one need only mention that the 
attack on Frangois Zola's memory was answered first in a 
work called " Le Pfere d'Emile Zola " by a Socialist journal- 
ist, writing under the name of ' Jacques Dhur," and secondly 
by fimile Zola himself in a series of newspaper articles, 
which he reprinted in a volume entitled "La V4rit en 

After studying those books and the documents they 
quote, nobody of impartial mind can entertain the graver 
charges preferred against the novelist's father. In his time 

, * " La YeritS en Marche/' pp. 259, 280-282. 

2 Probably in March, 1898. " La V6rit6 en Marche," pp. 251-253. 
Hd., pp. 277-279. 


with whom he constructed the first tramway line laid down 
on the continent of Europe. 1 

It has been called a railway, and such it undoubtedly 
was, though not in the sense usually given to the word 
"railway" nowadays; for relays of horses were employed 
for traction. The line extended from linz on the Danube 
to Budweis in Bohemia, a distance of seventy-eight miles ; 
and though it seems to have been largely devised for the 
transport of timber from the Bohemian forests to the great 
waterway, there was also a passenger service, which still 
existed in our time. 2 

While constructing this line, Zola, in June, 1823, obtained 
personally the imperial authorisation to make another one, 
connecting Linz with Gmunden and the Salzkammergut 
the so-called " Austrian Switzerland," industrially important 
for its extensive salt-works. But he became disappointed 
with the financial results of the Budweis line, and, accord- 
ingly, in September, 1830, he sold the Gmunden concession. 
It seems likely that he had then already quitted Austria, 
There are indications that he may have visited England 
with Bitter von Gerstner, and have sojourned for a time 
in Holland ; but before the end of 1830 he was certainly in 
France, writing to King Louis Philippe respecting a scheme 
he had devised for the fortification of Paris. In the spring 
of 1831 he was in communication with the French "War 
Office on this same subject, whilst also soliciting an appoint- 
ment in the Foreign Legion, in Algeria, with the rank of 

1 Documents printed by the " Neue Freie Presse " of Vienna (No, 12,028, 
February 17, 1898) and quoted in " LePere d'^mile Zola," by Jacques Dhur, 
Paris, 1899. 

2 Baedecker*s "Southern Germany and Austria," 1871* 


captain. 1 The fortification scheme was shelved, but the ap- 
pointment was granted, excepting in one respect : it was as 
a lieutenant, not as a captain, that Franois Zola entered 
the Foreign Legion in July, 1831. 

His career in that corps proved very brief, and ended 
strangely. Many years afterwards an unprincipled journal- 
ist, anxious to discredit ISmile Zola's championship of Gap- 
tain Dreyfus, raked up the episode in order to denounce 
the novelist as the son of a thief. But it is certain that 
some documents cited at the time were entirely forged, that 
others were falsified in part, and that others, again, were 
suppressed. This can occasion no surprise when it is re- 
membered that one of the dossiers concerning Frangois Zola, 
preserved at the French War Office, passed for a time into 
the possession of the notorious forger, Colonel Henry; 2 and 
that an unscrupulous Minister, General Billot, by asserting 
authoritatively that certain papers did not exist, 3 contrived 
to delay their discovery. Those matters will require notice 
hereafter; at this stage one need only mention that the 
attack on Frangois Zola's memory was answered first in a 
work called "Le P&re d'fimile Zola" by a Socialist journal- 
ist, writing under the name of *' Jacques Dhur," and secondly 
by Emile Zola himself in a series of newspaper articles, 
which he reprinted in a volume entitled "La V4rit en 

After studying those books and the documents they 
quote, nobody of impartial mind can entertain the graver 
charges preferred against the novelist's father. In his time 

, * " La Yerit& en Marche," PP- 259, 280-282. 

2 Probably in March, 1898. "La V&itf en Marche," pp. 251-253. 
8 Ibid., pp. 277-279. 


(1831-1832) great confusion prevailed in the Algerian army 
of occupation. Commanders and officers were constantly 
being changed, and Zola himself, after serving at first as a 
company officer, was temporarily entrusted with wardrobe 
matters, in his management of which some irregularities ap- 
pear to have arisen, in consequence, perhaps, of the aforesaid 
confusion, or of Zola's inexperience of such duties, or even 
neglect of them. In this connection, it is asserted that 
he became involved in an intrigue with a married woman, 
the wife of an ex-non-commissioned officer, of German origin, 
named Fischer. It is alleged that in May, 1832, when this 
woman and her husband were on the point of sailing for 
France, Zola disappeared from his quarters ; and that, some 
garments belonging to him having been found on the sea- 
shore near Algiers, it was at first thought he had committed 
suicide, or had been drowned while bathing. Somebody sug- 
gested, however, that he might be with the Fischers, and 
accordingly the vessel on which they had taken passage was 
searched, Zola was not there, but the Fischers acknow- 
ledged that a sum of fifteen hundred francs, out of four thou- 
sand found in their possession, belonged to him. This 
seemed a matter for investigation, particularly as a deficit 
in the wardrobe accounts had now been discovered. The 
Fischers, therefore, were arrested and brought on shore. 

But Zola, from some unknown retreat, unknown, that 
is, at the present time, wrote to the Commander-in-Chief, 
General the Duke of Eovigo, offering to come forward, make 
up his accounts, and pay whatever deficit might be found. 
According to the Duke of Eovigo, as Zola was only sus- 
pected of bad management, and no judicial complaint had 
been laid against him, this offer was accepted. No court- 


martial was held, though the lieutenant, on presenting 
himself, was placed under arrest until his accounts had 
been adjusted. He then paid over what was due, and the 
conseil d' administration of the Foreign Legion having given 
him a discharge in full, the Duke of Rovigo ordered his 

Meantime, Zola had tendered the resignation of his com- 
mission, and Marshal Soult, the Minister of War, who had 
been informed of the whole affair, objected that he ought 
not to have been set at liberty while this was still under 
consideration. Rovigo then wrote to the Minister justifying 
his own action ; l and, in the result, after reference to the 
King in person, Zola's resignation was accepted. 

Such are those facts of the case which seem to be well 
authenticated. It is known that several documents have 
disappeared from one of the Zola dossiers at the French 
Ministry of War, and that at least one letter attributed to 
Colonel Combe, who commanded the Foreign Legion in 
Zola's time, was forged; while another, couched in the 
strangest and wildest language, was doctored if not entirely 
invented. In such circumstances it is impossible to ascer- 
tain the whole truth concerning the affair ; but the lenient 
view taken of it by the Duke of Rovigo, the life of high rec- 
titude and able work which Zola led in after as in earlier 
years, the favour subsequently shown him by King Louis 
Philippe, to whom his case had been submitted, his later 
correspondence with Marshal Soult, to whom every partic- 
ular was also known, all tend to show that whatever may 
have been the exact nature of his delinquency, it was far 
less grave than his son's enemies wished one to imagine, 
l "La Y<rit6 en Marohe," pp. 264-266. . 


gineering "enterprises, he constantly showed himself to be in 
advance of his age, such as it was in France, full of 
faith in science, gifted with remarkable foresight as to 
possible developments, and possessed of an energy which no 
rebuff could overcome. In 1831 his schemes for the fortifi- 
cation of Paris had been shelved ; but directly that question 
was publicly revived by the French government (1839- 
1840), Francois Zola, undismayed by the failure of his long 
efforts at Marseilles, again did battle for his ideas. It is a 
curious circumstance, established by his writings and supply- 
ing strong proof of his foresight, that he was opposed to the 
construction of a rampart round the city, and advocated a 
system of detached forts. Long years afterwards, the Franco- 
German War of 1870 demonstrated the general accuracy of 
his views ; the rampart, raised contrary to his advice, then 
proved absolutely useless, and is now being removed, in part 
at all events ; while the advanced forts of the time, though 
their system was imperfect, alone rendered efficient service 
against the besiegers. But it is remarkable to find that of 
recent years, in adding to the forts which did duty during 
the German investment, in erecting others in advance of 
them so as to enclose a larger stretch of country, whence 
the city might derive supplies of food in time of siege, the 
French military authorities have followed in all noteworthy 
respects the line traced by Frangois Zola, first in 1831, and 
secondly in 1840! 

Thus time brings round its revenges. Francois Zola was 
a gifted and able man, and well might a son be proud of 
having such a father. How proud fimile Zola was to have 
sprung from one who showed such practical and far-seeing 
genius, how he vindicated his memory, and smote his 


traducers, all may read in the little volume entitled " Truth 
on the March." 

But before Francois Zola made fresh efforts in the matter 
of fortifying Paris, he had quitted Marseilles for Aix, the 
old capital of Provence, having observed in the course of 
some visits how greatly that ancient city and some of the 
surrounding country suffered from a lack of water. The 
idea of damming certain gorges, forming huge reservoirs 
into which the mountain torrents might fall, and bring- 
ing the water to Aix by a canal, occurred to him, and 
he had already studied the matter for some months, when, 
in September, 1838, the chief local journal, "Le Memorial 
d'Aix," gave publicity to his views. A preliminary agree- 
ment with the Municipal Council followed in December, 
and from that moment, what with this canal scheme, the 
Marseilles project, and ,the plans for fortifying Paris, Zola 
had his hands full. He was frequently compelled to visit 
the capital, and on one such occasion he fell in love and 

This occurred early in 1839. Francois Zola, who is de- 
scribed as being a genuine Italian in appearance, dark, with 
a very expressive face, a delicately curved mouth, a well- 
shaped nose, and piercing eyes, was then three and forty, 
while his bride was in her twentieth year, simple, gentle, 
and very pretty. Their first meeting recalled that of Faust 
and Marguerite. He perceived her as she was leaving 
church, fell in love with her on the spot, sought her home 
and her parents in the Rue de CWry, and wooed her with 
all the ardour of his Italian temperament. Her name was 
Franoise Emilie Aubert. Born in 1819, under the shadow 
of the tower of Philip Augustus, in the little town of Dour- 


the newspaper trade of Paris was carried on chiefly in 
and about the Bue de la Victoire. 

Directly the Zolas were installed in their new abode the 
young wife had to make preparations for her expected babe. 
In this matter she was assisted by her mother, Madame 
Aubert, a bright and sturdy woman, who had sprung from 
that peasantry which is the backbone of France. And soon 
afterwards, at eleven o'clock on the night of Wednesday, 
April 2, on a camp-bedstead, placed near the bedroom win- 
dow already mentioned, there was born a child, who to the 
great delight of parents and grandparents was found to be a 
boy. Two days later the birth was registered at the Muni- 
cipal Offices of the district, and the babe then received the 
names of Emile Edouard Charles Antoine. 1 

Born on the spot where Moli&re and La Fontaine had 
slumbered, that boy was destined like them to rise to literary 
celebrity. The laugh which Moli&re cast over human vile- 
ness, the light archness of La Fontaine, were never his. It 
was with deep earnestness that he stripped every Tartuffe 
of his last shred of clothing, that he bared every social sore 
to the gaze of a shrinking world. And the moral of his 
disclosures was not pointed in any vein of half-indulgent 
sarcasm, but writ large, in letters of fire, which burnt and 
branded. Moreover, a supreme destiny was reserved for 
him : his voice became at one moment that of the conscience 
of mankind 2 

At the time of his birth the Victorian age was dawning 
in England. The Queen had lately married. Most of 
Tennyson's work was still undone, and so was Buskin's. 

1 See post, Appendix A. Declaration of the birth of $mile Zola, 
3 Anatole France, October 5, 1902. 

Photo by A. Waser 

The Birthplace of Emile Zola 
10, Rue St. Joseph, Paris 


Bailey had just leapt into renown with " Festus." Brown- 
ing, in 1840, produced his "Sordello," and his wife her 
" Drama of Exile " ; while Hood meandered " Up the Bhine," 
and Tupper basked in the continued popularity of his book 
of platitudes, already two years old. Meantime Faraday had 
published the first edition of his " Experimental Eesearches 
in Electricity " ; Darwin, advancing slowly and methodically 
towards great pronouncements, was preparing the " Zoology 
of the Voyage of the Beagle " ; John Stuart Mill was medi- 
tating on his " System of Logic." And while Southey com- 
pleted his naval History, while Agnes Strickland began to 
issue her " Lives of the Queens," and Harriet Martineau her 
History of thirty years, Macaulay wrote his Essays, and 
Carlyle discoursed on "Heroes and Hero-worship." 

For the Ion ton of London, the Countess of Blessing- 
ton's now forgotten " Belle of the Season " was one of the 
novels of the day; but in that same year, 1840, Dickens 
published his " Old Curiosity Shop," Thackeray his " Cather- 
ine " and his "Paris Sketch Book," Ainsworth Ms " Tower/' 
James his " Man at Arms," Marryat his " Poor Jack," Hook 
his " Cousin Geoffrey," and Frances Trollope her "Widow 
Married," with which she hoped to repeat the success of her 
clever " Widow Barnaby." Bulwer, for his part, was writing 
" Night and Morning," and Lever was recording the exploits 
of "Charles O'Malley," while Disraeli, who had produced 
his tragedy " Alarcos " the previous year, turned for a time 
from literature. The Brontes and Kingsley had given 
nothing as yet; the Eossettis were children, like George 
Meredith, then twelve years old ; and among those who in 
1840 first saw the light were John Addington Symonds and 
Thomas Hardy. 


Meantime, across the Atlantic, Van Buren being Presi- 
dent of the United States, Emerson was writing his " Method 
of Nature " ; Longfellow his " Voices of the Night " ; Lowell, 
" A Year's Life " ; Irving on his side contributing " Wolf ert's 
Boost" to the "Knickerbocker," Willis publishing his " Cor- 
sair," and Poe his " Tales of the Grotesque." 

To English and American readers those imperfect sum- 
maries may give some idea of the " literary movement " in 
Great Britain and the United States at the time when Emile 
Zola was born. But what of his own country, Trance? 
During nearly ten years Louis Philippe had been reigning 
there ; and a few months later the ashes of Napoleon were 
to be brought back from St. Helena ; for the Orl&tns mon- 
archy, which had now reached its zenith, imagined itself to 
be quite secure. Indeed, when in August, that same year, 
the great conqueror's nephew descended on Boulogne, with 
a tame eagle upon his arm and a proclamation in his pocket, 
he covered himself with ridicule instead of the glory he 
had anticipated. And, again, though it was in 1840 that 
Louis Blanc first issued his " Organisation du Travail," be- 
fore beginning his " Histoire de Dix Ans," Eepublican and 
Socialist propaganda was not as yet sufficiently advanced 
to bear much fruit. 

Literature flourished, and cast upon the reign the glory 
which it failed to glean on other fields, for little came from 
Algerian exploits, however dashing, and none at all was 
harvested by an adventurous diplomacy. But a generation 
of remarkable writers had arisen, some among them great, 
many of them eminent in their respective spheres. In 1840, 
no doubt, the shadows were gathering around Chateaubriand, 
Casimir Delavigne could see his transient popularity declin- 


ing, Alfred de Vigny's best work was already done; but 
Hugo, " Victor in drama, victor in romance/' pursued with 
undimmed lustre his triumphal course. Moreover, Lamar- 
tine had just issued his " Recueillements po^tiques," and 
Musset was publishing his tales in prose. Meantime, 
Michelet and the Thierrys gave life to History ; while Ste. 
Beuve when not wandering after petticoats, and meditat- 
ing on that " Livre d' Amour " which he was to produce three 
years later, and afterwards to destroy, as far as possible, with 
his own hands was penning those Monday criticisms 
which may still be read with so much profit as well as 

Gautier was in Spain, having left the critical arm-chair 
of "La Presse" to the gifted and ill-fated Gerard de Nerval; 
but Janin discoursed in the " Dbats " with his usual flip- 
pancy, at one moment suggesting (in ignorance that any 
" Mrs. Grundy " would ever assert herself) that Paul de 
Kock and his indecorum were best suited to the English 
taste, whereas Monsieur de Balzac might well seek popular- 
ity in Russia. Thither, as it happened, the great delineator 
of " La Oom^die Humaine " repaired for the first time towards 
the close of that year, which found him in a despondent 
mood. In March, "Vautrin" had been produced and 
promptly laid under interdict, because Fr^ddrick Lemaltre, 
who impersonated the great rascal, had "made himself a 
head " like the King's. And sixteen volumes and twenty 
acts, written in a twelvemonth, Balzac complained, had 
not brought him freedom from pecuniary worries, even 
though the proceeds amounted to one hundred and fifty 
thousand francs. 

If Balzac took his pecuniary cares to heart, there was 


little if any fretting on the part of tliat splendid prodigal 
the great Dumas, who now issued his " Chevalier d'Harmen- 
tal," an inferior work, no doubt, yet one which showed traces 
of the lion's paw. Sue's contribution to the literature of 
1840, " La Vigie de Koat-Ven," is now almost forgotten ; so 
is Legouv^s " Edith de Falsen," though it ran through several 
editions. Doubtless one of the most popular novels of the 
day was still Charles de Bernard's best work, "G-erfaut," 
the fifth edition of which now came from the j>ress. George 
Sand, for her part, was penning a minor work, " Pauline "; 
Souli^ was building his " Chateau des Pyr6n3es " ; and M&i- 
mde, diffident and painstaking, was copying and modify- 
ing, sixteen times in succession, his still familiar tale of 
" Colomba." Stendhal had given his " Chartreuse de Parme " 
to the world in the previous year. Flaubert was but a 
young man of nineteen, travelling in southern France and 
plunging, at Marseilles, into a transient love affair, which 
was to suggest an episode of " Madame Bovary." Finally, 
in that same year, 1840, within six weeks after the birth 
of Emile Zola, Alphonse Daudet, who was destined to 
become his friend, and, in a sense, his rival for fame, came 
into the world at Mmes in Provence. 

In these two, Zola and Daudet, was repeated a phenome- 
non often observed in the history of French literature : the 
advent of a superior man of strong masculinity, attended or 
soon followed by that of another, distinguished by femininity 
of mini Thus Corneille and Racine, Voltaire and Rous- 
seau, Hugo and Lamartine, Very similar was the decouple- 
ment of Zola and Daudet, who, the one appealing to the 
reason, the other to the heart, stood in the domain of fiction, 
at least at one period of their careers, head and shoulders 


above every contemporary. Daudet waged his battle with 
a quick and slender rapier, Zola brandished a heavy mace 
akin to those redoubtable weapons with which the warriors 
of mediaeval days beat down the helms of their antagonists. 
Some, too, have likened Daudet to an Arab horse, all eager- 
ness and nerves ; while Zola has been called a cactus of 
Provence that had sprouted between the paving-stones of 
Paris. The great city was his birthplace, and he was proud 
of it ; yet Provence certainly had many claims on him, for 
there he was conceived, and there, as the following pages 
will show, he spent the greater part of his childhood under 
circumstances which exercised no little influence on his dis- 
position, life, and work. 




Francois Zola in Paris A rebuff and a success Progress of Ms canal scheme 
He is struck down by the " mistral " and dies His obsequies and his 
grave Difficulties of his widow and son Lawsuits Aix, a city of 
Philistines or of enlightenment ? $mile Zola, a spoilt child His first 
schooling and first chums He plays the truant Declining family cir- 
cumstances Zola is sent to the Aix College His many prizes, and his 
first literary attempts The college and its masters Zola, Bailie, and 
Cezanne ; their pranks and their rambles The country round Ai* 
.Zola's lines on Provence He is influenced by Hugo and Musset Ideal 
love : Gratienne and Ninon Increasing family penury Madame Zola 
seeks help in Paris She is joined there by her son Zola at the Lyce"e 
St. Louis He is ''ploughed" for a degree in Paris His vacations in 
Provence Early poetry He is *' ploughed " at Marseilles His 
studies stopped A gloomy outlook, 

THE infancy of fertile Zola was spent in Paris, his father's 
enterprises compelling tlie family to remain there till 1843. 
Throughout 1840 the engineer was preparing plans of his 
fortification scheme, issuing pamphlets, corresponding with 
Thiers, and interviewing General Despans-Cubi&res, Minister 
of War. He renewed his efforts when Thiers fell from power 
and was succeeded by Marshal Soult ; but he was unable to 
overcome the stolid indifference of General Dode, the war- 
office director of fortifications, who, without even examining 
his plans, reported against them on the ground that the 
government and the defence committee had made up their 
minds four years previously with respect to what system 
should be adopted. As Soult accepted this view of the 
matter, Zola's efforts again came to nothing. His only con- 
solation was that, early in 1841, when the Paris fortification 


bill was finally discussed by the legislature, his ideas found 
supporters in General Schneider and M. Dufaure, a subse- 
quent prime minister of France. 1 A better result attended 
Zola's invention of an appliance for removing the masses of 
earth, which, he foresaw, would be thrown up in digging the 
moat of the Paris rampart. He patented this invention in 
June, 1841, and after his appliance had been constructed at 
some works in the Eue de Miromesnil in 1842, it was em- 
ployed successfully in the excavations at Clignancourt. 2 

A few months later the indomitable engineer again turned 
to his scheme for providing Aix with water. Removing 
thither with his wife and child, he signed, in April, 1843, a 
new agreement with the municipality, followed in June by 
another with the mayor of Le Tholonet; for a large dam 
was to be constructed near that village, at the entrance of 
the Internet gorges. But although Zola's earlier sugges- 
tions had now prompted the neighbouring city of Marseilles 
to cut a canal from Pertuis on the Durance, an enterprise 
carried out by a distinguished engineer named Montrichet 
between 1839 and 1849, some of the good people of Aix 
and its vicinity remained uninfluenced by the example, and 
a long battle ensued. 

The waters which Zola had finally decided to bring to Aix 
were those of the little rivers Causse and Bayou, and the 
interested villages were gradually won over, though, now 
and again, territorial magnates like the Marquis de Galliffet, 
Prince de Martigues, father of the well-known general 
officer and owner of the chateau of Le Tholonet, remained 

* "Le Pere d'imile Zola/' p, 212 et seq.; "La Y6rit< en Marclie," p, 295 
et seq. 

a Ibid., p. 306. 


hostile to the scheme. Fortunately Zola, besides having a 
good friend in M. Aude, the mayor of Aix, obtained support 
in Paris, notably from Thiers and Mignet, whose association 
with the old Provencal city is well known ; and thus, in 
May, 1844, he obtained a royal declaration of the public 
utility of his project, with leave to expropriate landowners, 
purchase land, and capture water on terms which were to be 
arranged. The landowners, however, often set extravagant 
prices on their property, bitter disputes arose over valua- 
tions, and all sorts of authorities, with interests at stake, 
raised one and another claim and difficulty ; the Council of 
State at last having to re-adjust Zola's agreements with 
municipalities and others, in such wise that a final covenant 
was only signed in June, 1845. Zola then returned to Paris 
with his wife and son, for, apart from all municipal help, a 
considerable amount of money had to be raised for the en- 
terprise, and it was not until midsummer, 1846, that the 
Zola Canal Company was at last constituted. 1 

Then the engineer went southward once more. One reads 
in contemporary newspapers that the great struggle had 
affected his health, that he was no longer so strong as 
formerly, but it is certain that he felt full of confidence. 
His courageous efforts were about to yield fruit : the work 
was begun, the first sod was cut, the first blasting operations 
were carried out successfully. Zola stood, as it were, on the 
threshold of the promised land. And then, all at once, 
destiny struck him down. One morning, after three months' 
toil, while he was superintending his men, the "mistral" wind, 
that scourge of southern France, descended upon the valley 
where they were working. The icy blast laid its clutch 
1 Soci&d du Canal Zola : deeds drawn by Maltre Baudier, Notary in Paris. 


upon Zola, but, although he already felt its chill, he would 
not defer a business visit to Marseilles. He repaired thither, 
installing himself, as was his habit, at the H6tel de la Mdi- 
terrande kept by one Moulet, in the Rue de 1'Arbre. That 
same night he was attacked by pleurisy, and on the morrow 
it became necessary to summon his wife, who had remained 
at Aix. All remedies proved unavailing, and within a 
week he expired in her arms. Thirty years afterwards that 
sudden death, in a second-class hotel, amid unpacked trunks 
and the coming and going of heedless travellers, suggested 
to Zola's son the account of Charles Grandjean's death given 
in " Une Page d' Amour." l 

It was on Saturday, March 27, 1847, that Franois Zola 
thus passed away. His remains were embalmed, and the 
obsequies took place at Aix on the ensuing Tuesday, when 
the clergy went in procession to the Place de la Rotonde, 
beyond the walls, to receive the body on its arrival. The 
pall-bearers were the sub-prefect, the mayor, the government 
district engineer, and Maitre Labot, an eminent advocate of 
the Council of State and the Court of Cassation, who had 
been one of Zola's leading supporters. The capitular clergy, 
headed by a Canon-bishop of St. Denis, officiated at the rites 
in the cathedral ; and, as chief mourner, immediately behind 
the hearse, when escorted by the civil and military authori- 
ties it took the road to the cemetery, between crowds of 
spectators, there walked a pale-faced little boy, barely seven 
years of age, who moved as in a dream. In after years he 
retained little recollection of his father. He pictured him 
best, he was wont to say, by the aid of all that his mother 

1 Paul Alexis* "Simile Zola: Fotes d'un Ami/' 2d edition, Paris, 
1882, p. 130. . Zola's "Una Page d'Amour," Paris, 1878, pp. 20, 21. 


tad related of Ms affectionate tenderness, his unflagging 
energy, Ms Mgh and noble views. Thus how great was the 
son's amazement, indignation, and sorrow when, long years 
afterwards, unscrupulous enemies tried to make the world 
believe that his father had been a thief. 

On that matter the reader will form Ms own opinion, and 
it is largely to enable him to do so that the cMef facts of 
Franqois Zola's career of honourable and untiring industry 
have been recapitulated in these pages. But another pur- 
pose also has been served. As the narrative of fimile Zola's 
life proceeds, it will be observed how truly he was his father's 
son, evincing in manhood the same energy, industry, and 
perseverance, the same passion to strive against obstacles, 
and, by striving, overcome them. In his case, the prompting 
of inherited nature is the more manifest as he was of such 
tender years when his father died, and thus escaped the 
influence of companionship and example, wMch so often 
increase the resemblance of father and son. Ah, that poor 
contemned doctrine of heredity, as old as the world itself, 
how could Emile Zola fail to believe in it when he himself 
was a striking illustration of its workings ? 

Francois Zola's widow placed a modest slab upon her 
husband's grave in the cemetery of Aix, in which she herself 
was to be laid three and thirty years later. A cedar shades 
the tomb from the flaring sky poised over that glowing field 
of death, whence the view spreads to many a hill and moun- 
tain, clad in blue and purple. And on the slab, which is 
protected by iron chains dangling from granite billets, one 
reads : "Francois Zola, 1795-1847. Frangoise Emilie Zola, 
nle Aubert, 1819-1880." Aix, however, does not need the 
presence of that tomb to remind it of one of its most 


notable benefactors. Although Frangois Zola died when his 
work was only in its first stage, although a little later his 
original scheme was foolishly cut down, in such wise as to 
necessitate other subsequent costly undertakings, and al- 
though thirty-one years elapsed before the water he had 
coveted at last entered Aix, the enterprise he planned has 
always been known popularly as the Zola Canal. Further, 
after its completion in 1868, the local municipality then in 
office, to efface in a measure the inconsiderate treatment of 
his widow and his son by previous municipalities, bestowed 
the name of Boulevard Franois Zola on a thoroughfare till 
then called the Boulevard du Chemin-neuf. 1 

The expression "inconsiderate treatment " is certainly not 
too severe a one to be applied to the action of some of the 
authorities of Aix in their dealings with Zola's widow, who, 
in her own name and her son's, inherited her husband's in- 
terest in the canal scheme. But she had to contend also 
with others associated with the work. It was virtually a 
repetition, or rather a variation, of the familiar story of the 
confiding inventor and the greedy capitalist. In this in- 
stance the inventor was dead, and only his heirs remained. 
He had fully disclosed his scheme, prepared his plans, and 
others were eager to profit by them. Thus his widow and 
his little boy were gradually regarded as incumbrances, 
nuisances. Why not set them aside ? Why not rob them ? 
Are not the widow and the orphan robbed every day ? Be- 
sides, it is often easy to bamboozle a young and inexperienced 
woman in matters of law. Already at this time Madame 
Zola's parents had come to live with her at Aix ; but her 
father was aged, and deficient, it would seem, in business ca- 
* "La V&it6 en Marche," p. 241. 


pacity ; while her mother, however bright, active, and thrifty, 
was not the woman to give unimpeachable advice on intricate 
legal questions. As for little El mile, now seven years old, 
he did not even know his letters ; he spent happy, careless 
days in the sunshine, blissfully ignorant that trouble was 
assailing the home, and would some day destroy it. Yet 
it was he who, long years afterwards, avenged his father and 
his mother, in the only manner possibly in which they 
could be avenged. Perhaps it did not affect the despoilers 
personally ; many of them, indeed, must have been dead at 
the time, and those who survived may have only sneered, 
for the gold was theirs. None the less the pictures of Aix 
and its society, traced in four or five volumes of the Rougon- 
Macquart novels, were instinct with retribution. Aix still 
raises ineffectual protests whenever it hears that name of 
Plassans which the novelist gave it, and which, though its 
origin was simple enough, for it was merely a modification 
of Hassans, the name of a village near Brignoles, southeast 
of Aix, acquired under Zola's caustic pen an element of 

The displeasure of Aix in this respect has been the more 
marked as the city's past is not destitute of grandeur. One 
of the earliest stations of the Romans in Gaul, it became the 
metropolis of the Second Narbonensis ; but its walls, porti- 
coes, thermae, arena, and temples were largely destroyed 
when the Saracens sacked it in the eighth century, and few 
memorials of its classic era now exist. As the capital of 
Provence in the days of " good King Ren6," whose court was 
described by Scott in "Anne of Geierstein," Aix regained 
some lustre, followed half a century later by a period of 
trouble, many of its mediaeval monuments being wrecked 


during the struggle between Francis I and Charles V, who 
was crowned King of Aries in the fane of St. Sauveur. 
Nevertheless, girdled by picturesque mountains, with its old 
town, new town, and faubourg, rich in stately edifices, pleas- 
ant promenades, and elegant fountains, Air remains one of 
the notable cities of southern France. And if, administra- 
tively, as the French say, it is now only a sub-prefecture of 
the department of the Bouches-du-Rh6ne, it continues to be 
an archbishop's see, and retains its courts of justice and its 
faculties of theology, law, and letters. Its university is per- 
haps its greatest boast, though it is also proud of its museum 
and its splendid library, which is known to scholars all the 
world over. Thus Aix claims to be a city of enlightenment, 
not a town of Philistines, as it was largely pictured by 
Smile Zola; but one must remember that he described 
things as they were in his time, and that if a new and more 
active generation has arisen nowadays, it was preceded by 
others, somnolent and neglectful. 

Aix has given several distinguished sons to France : the 
elder Vanloo; Vauvenargues, the moralist; Mignet,the his- 
torian ; Brueys, the poet, and Brueys, the admiral who fell 
at the battle of the Nile ; Michel Adanson and Piton d0 
Tournefort, the eminent naturalists ; Frangois Granet, who 
translated Newton into French, and FranoisMarius G-ranet, 
his nephew, who distinguished himself in art, and became 
one of the city's benefactors. Again, Portalis, the great 
jurisconsult, who prepared the Concordat which still binds 
France and the Papal See, was for a time one of the shin- 
ing lights of the city ; and Thiers, though born at Mar- 
seilles, completed his studies at Aix, took his degrees, and 
was called to the b&r there. Curiously enough, the house 


where TMers liad lived in his student days was the first 
home of the Zolas at Aix. It stood at the end of a strip of 
road, a " no thoroughfare," called picturesquely the Impasse 
Sylvacanne. There was a large garden to the house, and in 
that garden little Emile disported himself as he listed. 

His mother and grandmother spoilt him, as the saying 
goes. His father's death filled them with indulgence for his 
childish faults. He was a boy to be petted and humoured, 
for the greatest of misfortunes had fallen on him. Spending 
so much of his time in the open air, he was becoming quite 
a sturdy little fellow, sun-tanned, with soft, thoughtful eyes 
and a perky nose, and his incessant questions seemed to in- 
dicate the possession of an intelligent and eager mind. But, 
as yet, no attempt was made to educate him. His mother 
was already busy with her lawyers, striving to enforce her 
claims, and endeavouring also to obtain influential support. 
When Thiers came to Abe some four months after !Franois 
Zola's death, the widow presented her little son to the great 
man in the hope of thereby arousing his sympathy. And 
Thiers certainly responded with fair words, though whether 
he went further is doubtful. At all events, lawsuits were 
started, and to the worry they entailed one must ascribe 
the comparative neglect in which young Umile remained a 
little longer. 

At last, in the autumn of 1847, it was decided to send 
him to school. Some doubt as to the result of the lawsuits 
was already arising in the minds of Madame Zola and , her 
parents, and they felt that they must at least provide for the 
boy's future by giving him a sound education. It was sug- 
gested that he should b sent immediately to the College of 
Aix now called the Lyc^e Mignet; but as he did not 


even know his letters, Madame Aubert, his grandmother, 
sensibly decided to select a preparatory school. One was 
found near the Notre Dame gate, from which it derived its 
appellation of Pension Notre Dame. It was kept by a 
worthy and indulgent pedagogue, named Isoard, who after 
infinite trouble for the boy was stubborn and bitterly re- 
gretted his careless life in the open air contrived to teach 
him to read the Fables of La Fontaine. It was at this time 
that young fimile formed his earliest life-friendships; he 
became attached to two of his school-fellows, one of whom, 
Solari, a sculptor of distinguished talent, is still alive, while 
the other, Marius Roux, acquired a passing reputation as a 
" popular " novel writer. 1 These two were Zola's usual play- 
mates at marbles, tops, and leap-frog, his first companions 
also in the rambles in which he began to indulge. 

For some reason or other, Madame Zola and the Auberts 
moved from the Impasse Sylvacanne to the Pont-de-Beraud, 
in the open country, on the road to Toulon, and then young 
35 mile had fields before him with a picturesque stream, the 
Torse, so called on account of its capricious windings "a 
torrent in December, the most timid of rivulets in the fine 
weather," as he called it afterwards in his " Contes a Ninon." 
And the charms of the country, the inviting banks of the 
Torse, often made a truant of him, a truant who remained 
unpunished, for as his grandparents generally said : " It was 
not right to cross the poor fatherless boy." 

The position of the family was now, however, becoming 
difficult. The widow's savings were dwindling away in 

1 Among Ms works, which in the first instance generally appeared 
letons in Paris newspapers, were "Eugenie Lamour," " Francis et Mariette," 
'* Les Manages Jannes," and "Evariste Planchn, Moeurs vraies du Quartier 
Latin," the last named being perhaps his best book. 



legal and living expenses ; and some who had been willing 
to help her were at present unable to do so, having lost 
authority, influence, and, at times, even means. France had 
passed through a revolution, Louis Philippe had been over- 
thrown; unrest was widespread throughout the period of 
the Second Republic ; and when Louis Napoleon strangled 
that r'egime in the night, Provence became convulsed, there 
were risings, excesses, bloodshed, even as Smile Zola sub- 
sequently depicted in the pages of " La Fortune des Rougon." 
The new municipality of Aix, appointed after the Coup 
d'etat, was not inclined to effect any reasonable compromise 
with those Orl&nist protiges, the Zolas. One on whom 
they had largely relied, Thiers, was himself virtually a fugi- 
tive. Again, in those days of trouble the law's delays be- 
came greater than ever; apart from which it would seem 
that Madame Zola's actions were altogether ill-conducted. 
Nevertheless, in the summer of 1852, though her affairs 
were taking a very unfavourable course, and it was becom- 
ing necessary to trench upon the investments whence the 
Auberts derived their modest personal income, it was at last 
decided to send Entile to the College of Aix. as a boarder ; 
and the family, in order to be nearer to him, moved into the 
town, its new home being in the Rue Bellegarde. 

The boy could now see that the family resources were 
diminishing. The last servant had been dismissed, and it 
was his grandmother, the still lively and sturdy Beauceronne, 
who attended to most of the housework. Moreover, she 
and her daughter had largely taken the lad into their con- 
fidence, and he, precociously realising that his future would 
most likely depend on his own exertions, resolved to turn 
over a new leaf. Though his love for the open air in no 


wise diminished, he studied profitably from the time of 
entering the College of Aix in October, 1852. He was 
placed in the seventh class (the lowest but one), and at the 
expiration of the school year, in August, 1853, he was awarded 
first prizes for history and geography, recitation, and the 
translation of Latin into French, and second prizes for gram- 
mar, arithmetic, religious instruction, and the translation of 
French into Latin. 1 In the following year, in the sixth class, 
he was less successful, some antipathy, it is said, existing 
between him and one of the professors. 2 Nevertheless, his 
name was inscribed on the tableau d'honneur, and he ob- 
tained a first prize for history and geography, a first accessit 3 
in religious instruction, and third accessits in excellence 
and recitation. 

Next, 1854-1855, he passed into the fifth class, in which he 
gained two first prizes for Latin, translation and composition ; 
a second prize for the translation of Greek into French ; a 
first accessit in excellence, and third accessits in French, his- 
tory, geography, and recitation. At the end of the ensuing 
school year, when he joined the fourth class, he secured four 
first prizes excellence, Latin composition, Latin verse, 
translation from Latin into French ; and three second prizes 
history and geography, grammar, and Greek exercise. 
Finally, in 1856-1857 (his last completed year, spent in the 
third class) he was awarded : the tableau d'honneur prize, first 
prizes for excellence, French composition, arithmetic, geom- 
etry, physics, chemistry, natural history, and recitation; 
second prizes for religious instruction and translation from 

1 "Palmares dn College d'Aix," 1853 ** seq. 

2 P. Alexis, 1. c., p. 21. 

8 An accessit is a distinction conferred, in French colleges, on the three 
pupils who come nearest to a prize winner. 


the Latin; with a first accessit in history and geography. 
He was then in Ms eighteenth year, and if prize-winning 
might be taken as a criterion, there was every likelihood 
that he would achieve a distinguished career. 

But one must now go hack a little, for other matters 
marked those school days at Aix. At first the boy boarded 
at the college, then he became a half-boarder, and finally an 
externe, or day pupil, taking his meals at home ; these 
changes being necessitated by the gradually declining posi- 
tion of his family. Already while he was a boarder, that is, 
barely in his teens, his literary bent began to assert itself, a 
perusal of Michaud's "Histoire des Croisades" inspiring 
him to write a romance of the middle ages, copiously pro- 
vided with knights, Saracens, and fair damsels in distress. 
That boyish effort, though the almost illegible manuscript 
was preserved through life by its author, remained un- 
printed; and a like fate attended a three-act comedy in 
verse, entitled " Enfonc le Pion," or The Usher Outwitted/' 
However, given these literary leanings, and a fervent ad- 
miration for some of the poets, as will presently be shown, 
it may at first seem strange that on entering the third class 
in 1856, and being called upon to choose between letters 
and sciences, Zola, then over seventeen, should have selected 
the latter. In this respect, as Paul Alexis says, he was 
influenced in part by the fact that, however proficient he 
might be in the dead languages, he had no real taste for 
them, whereas the natural sciences interested him ; but his 
choice was also partially governed by the fact that he was 
the son of an engineer, and that a scientific career would be 
in accordance with his parentage. In his studies he was 
guided by one simple, self-imposed rule, a rule which he 


carried into his after-life, and winch largely proved the 
making of him. He did not eschew play and other recrea- 
tion, he did not spend interminable hours in poring over 
books, there was nothing "goody-goody" about him; but 
he invariably learnt his lessons, prepared his exercises, 
before he went to play. And, all considered, no more 
golden rule can be offered to the schoolboy. 

Zola and his disciple Paul Alexis, who also studied at 
the Aix College, have sketched it as it was at that time a 
former convent, old and dank, with a somewhat forbidding 
frontage, a dark chapel, and grimly barred windows facing 
a quiet little square, on which still stands the rococo foun- 
tain of the Four Dolphins. Within the gate were two large 
yards, one planted with huge plane trees, and the other 
reserved chiefly for gymnastic exercises, while all around were 
the class-rooms, the lower ones dismal, damp, and stuffy, and 
the upper ones more cheerful of aspect, with windows over- 
looking the greenery of neighbouring gardens. The refectory 
again was quite a den, always redolent of dish-water ; but 
comparative comfort might be found in the infirmary, man- 
aged by some "gentle sisters in black gowns and white 
coifs." The masters, if Zola's subsequent account of them 
in "L'GEuvre" may be trusted, were generally ridiculed by 
the boys, who gave them opprobrious nicknames. One, 
never known to smile, was called " Rhadamantus " ; another, 
" who by the constant rubbing of his head had left his mark 
on the wall behind every seat he occupied, was named, 
plumply, Filth ' " ; and a third had his wife's repeated in- 
fidelity openly cast in his face. 

Of course, the boys also had their nicknames, Zola, says 
Paul Alexis, acquiring that of "Franciot," or "Frenchy," 


which was given him because his pronunciation of various 
words differed from that of his Provencal school-fellows. 
This was not to be wondered at, the parent to whom he 
owed his mother tongue being a Beauceronne. Other anec- 
dotes which picture him suffering from an impediment in 
his speech may be taken with a grain of salt, perhaps, as 
the official records show that he gained prizes and accessits 
for recitation. As had been the case at the Pension Notre 
Dame, he formed a close friendship with a few of his school- 
fellows. One of these was a lawyer's son, named Marguery, 
a bright, merry" lad with musical tastes, who a few years 
later, to the general amazement, blew his brains out in a fit 
of insanity. Another was Antony Valabrkgue, afterwards a 
tasteful poet, whose family, curiously enough, became con- 
nected with that of Captain Dreyfus. Valabr&gue being 
some years younger than Zola, their companionship at school 
did not go very far; but they subsequently corresponded, 
and intimacy ensued between them. At the college Zola's 
more particular chums were Cezanne and Bailie, the former 
afterwards well known as an impressionist painter, the 
second as a professor at the Ecole Poly technique. Bailie, 
C&zanne, and Zola became inseparables ; and though all three 
were fairly diligent pupils in class-time, they indulged in 
many a boyish prank together during the earlier years of 
their sojourn at the college. 

One morning, in a spirit of mischievousness, they burnt 
the shoes of a school-fellow, a lank lad called Mimi4a-Mort, 
alias the Skeleton Day Boarder, who smuggled snuff into 
the school. Then one winter evening they purloined some 
matches in the chapel and smoked dry chestnut leaves in 
reed pipes there. Zola, who was the ringleader on that 


occasion, afterwards frankly confessed his terror; owning 
that a cold perspiration had come upon him as he scrambled 
out of the dark choir. Again, another day, C&anne hit 
upon the idea of roasting some cock-chafers in Ms desk to 
see whether they were good to eat, as people said they were. 
So terrible became the stench, so dense the smoke, that the 
usher rushed for some water, under the impression that 
the place was on fire. At another time they sawed off the 
wooden seats in one of the courtyards, and carried them like 
corpses round the basin of so-called ornamental water in the 
centre* of the yard, other boys joining them, forming in pro- 
cession, and singing funeral dirges. But in the midst of it 
all, Bailie, who played the priest, tumbled into the basin 
while trying to scoop some water into his cap, which was to 
have served as a holy-water pot. 1 

The three inseparables engaged also in many a stone- 
throwing fight with the town lads, clambered over the old, 
crumbling, ivy-clad ramparts, and basked on " King Rent's 
chimney " 2 on occasions when the mistral thundered by, 
" buffeting the houses, carrying away their roofs, dishevelling 
the trees, and raising great clouds of dust, while the sky 
became a livid blue, and the sun turned pale," 3 There were 
excursions also, sometimes by way of escorting regiments, 
which on changing garrison passed through the town, at 
other moments on the occasion of religious processions when 

1 Zola's "L'CEuvre," Chap. II. 

2 " If it is good King Rene" whom you seek, you will find Mm at this time 
walking in his chimney . . . the narrow parapet yonder ; it extends between 
these two towers, has an exposure to the south, and is sheltered in every other 
direction. Yonder it is his pleasure to walk and enjoy the "beams of the sun 
on such cool mornings as the present. It nurses, he says, his poetical vein." 
Scott's " Anne of Geierstein," Chap. XXIX. 

* Zola's " Le Docteur Pascal." 


the clergy appeared in their finest vestments, their acolytes 
swinging censers and ringing bells, the military and muni- 
cipal bands discoursing music, the white-gowned girls carry- 
ing banners, and the boys scattering roses and golden broom. 
Although fimile Zola eventually lost all faith in the 
dogmas of the Roman Church, the pomp of its cult impressed 
him throughout his life, as is shown by many passages in 
his works. And in his boyhood the processions of Aix 
delighted him. He himself sometimes took part in them 
acting on at least one occasion, in 1856, as a clarionet player 
of the college fanfare, for his friend Marguery had imparted 
to him some taste for music. 

Then as now Aix had its theatre, which Zola and his 
young friends patronised whenever they could afford a franc 
for a pit seat ; but they eschewed cafi life and the gambling 
which usually attends it in the provinces, for whenever 
they had time at their disposal they infinitely preferred to 
roam the country. The environs of Aix are strangely pic- 
turesque. There is the famous Mont Ste. Victoire, ascended 
through thickets of evergreen' oaks and holly, pines, wild 
roses, and junipers, till at last only some box plants dot the 
precipitous slopes, veined like marble; while in a cavern 
near the summit is the weird bottomless pit of Le Garagay, 
whose demon-spirits Margaret of Anjou vainly interrogated 
in "Anne of Geierstein." Again, there is the historic castle 
of Vauvenargues, the ruined castle of Puyricard, the her- 
mitage of St. Honorat; and there are other mountainous 
hills with goat paths, gorges, and ravines, and also stretches 
of plain, watered now by the Arc or the Torse, now by the 
canal which Franois Zola planned. In his son's youth 
that canal had not yet transformed ' the thirsty expanse; 


when 13 mile roamed the region with his friends "the red 
and yellow ochreous fields, spreading under the oppressive 
sun, were for the most part planted merely with stunted 
almond and olive trees, with branches twisted in positions 
which seemed to suggest suffering and revolt. Afar off, 
like dots on the bare stripped hills, one saw only the white- 
walled "bastides, each flanked by dark, bar-like cypresses. 
The vast expanse was devoid of greenery ; but on the other 
hand, with the broad folds and sharply defined tints of its 
desolate fields, it possessed some fine outlines of a severe, 
classic grandeur." 1 

Apart from the plain, but very characteristic of the region, 
were the Internet gorges, near which Francois Zola planned 
one of his huge reservoirs. There one found "a narrow 
defile between giant walls of rock which the blazing sun 
had baked and gilded. Pines had sprung up in the clefts. 
Plumes of trees, appearing from below no larger than tufts 
of herbage, fringed the crests and waved above the chasm. 
This was a perfect chaos. With its many sudden twists, 
its streams of blood-red soil, pouring from each gash in its 
sides, its desolation and its solitude, disturbed only by the 
eagles hovering on high, it looked like some spot riven by 
the bolts of heaven, some gallery of hell." 2 

There were also the villages, whose houses, at times, were 
mere hovels of rubble and boards, some squatting amid 
muck-heaps, and dingy with woeful want; others more 
roomy and cheerful, with roofs of pinkish tiles- Strips of 
garden, victoriously planted amid stony soil, displayed plots 
of vegetables enclosed by quickset hedges. Much of the 
aridity of the region had arisen from the ruthless def orest- 

i " Le Docteur Pascal." * Ibid. 


ing of the hills ; formerly the falling leaves had spread rich 
vegetable soil over the mountain flanks, there had been good 
pasture for sheep where barren crags alone were left, and 
the climate, equalised by the moisture of the woods, had 
been less abrupt and violent in its changes. 1 Yet, in Zola's 
youth, as now, " wherever there was the smallest spring, the 
smallest brook, the glowing land still burst into powerful 
vegetation, and a dense shade prevailed, with paths lying 
deep and delightfully cool between plane trees, horse-chest- 
nuts, and elms, all growing vigorously." 2 

Those various scenes were a delight to Zola and his 
friends. " They craved for the open air, the broad sunlight, 
the sequestered paths in the ravines. They roamed the 
hills, rested in green nooks, returned home at night through 
the thick dusk of the highways. In winter they relished 
the cold, the frosty, gaily echoing ground, the pure sky > 
and the sharp atmosphere. In summer they always assem- 
bled beside the river the willow-fringed Arc for the 
water then became their supreme passion, and they spent 
whole afternoons bathing, swimming, paddling, and stretch- 
ing themselves to dry on the fine sun-warmed sand. In the 
autumn they became sportsmen inoffensive ones, for there 
is virtually no game, scarcely even a rabbit, in the district, 
and at the most one might bring down an occasional petty- 
chap, fig-pecker, or some other small bird. But if, now and 
again, they fired a shot, it was chiefly for the pleasure of 
making a noise, and their expeditions always ended in the 
shade of a tree, where they lay on their backs, chatting 
freely of their preferences." 8 

* " The Athenaeum," No. 3686, June 18, 1898, p. 785, 

* " Le Docteur Pascal/' 

8 Zola's " Documents LitteYaires," p. 88 (abbreviated). 


A little later, when Zola's young muse essayed her flight, 
he recalled those days of Provence, singing : 

" Provence, des pleurs s'e'chappent de mes yeux 
Quand vibre sur anon luth ton nom, me'lodieux. . . 
region d'amour, de parfum, de lumiere, 
II me serait bien doux de t'appeler ma mere. . . . 
Autour d'Aix, la romaine, il n'est pas de ravines, 
Pas de rochers perdus au penchant des collines, 
Dans la valise en fleur pas de lointains sentiers, 
Ou, Ton ne puisse voir Fempreinte de mes pieds. . . . 
ficolier chapp6 de la docte prison, 
Et jetant aux chos son rire et sa chanson, 
Adolescent reVeur poursuivant sous tes sanies 
La nymphe dont il croit voir blanchir les e*paules, 
Jusqu'aux derniers taillis j'ai couru-tes forts, 
Provence, e*t fou!6 tes lieux les plus secrets. 
Mes Idvres nommeraient chacune de tes pierres, 
Chacun de tes buissons perdus dans tes clairieres. 
J'ai jou^ si longtemps sur tes coteaux fleuris, 
Que brins d'herbe et graviers me sont de vieux amis." 1 

Those rambles undoubtedly helped to rouse a sense of 
poetry in Zola and his companions. Besides providing 
themselves with provisions, at times a small joint of raw 
mutton and some salad plants, which they cooked or dressed 
in the wilds, they carried books, volumes of the poets, in 
their pockets or their bags. One year, 1856, Victor Hugo 
reigned over them like an absolute monarch. They were 
conquered by the majesty of his compositions, enraptured 
by his powerful rhetoric. His dramas haunted them like 
splendid visions. After being chilled by the classic mono- 
logues which they were compelled to learn by heart at the 
college, they felt warmed, transported into an orgy of quiv- 
ering ecstacy, when they lodged passages of "Hernani" and 
"Buy Bias" in their minds. Many a time, on the river- 

i Zola's " L'A&ienne " (1860) in Alexis, I c., p. 265 et se$. 


bank, after bathing, they acted some scenes together. 1 In- 
deed, they knew entire plays, and on the way home, in the 
twilight, they would adapt their steps to the rhythm of 
those lines which were sonorous like trumpet-blasts. But 
a day came when one of them produced a volume of Alfred 
de Musset's poems, the perusal of which set their hearts 
quivering. From that hour their worship for Hugo received 
a great blow, his lines fled from their memories, and 
Musset alone reigned over them. He became their con- 
stant companion in the hollows, the grottoes, the little 
village inns where they rested ; and, again and again, they 
read " Rolla " or the Nights," aloud. 2 

Thus their young natures awoke to love. Cezanne and 
Bailie were then about eighteen years of age; Zola was 
seventeen. But their aspirations remained full of ideality. 
There were a few brief, uncertain attempts at love-making, 
nipped in the bud by circumstances. Already, before the 
time we have now reached, Zola, or his musically minded 
friend Marguery, or perhaps both, had nursed a boyish 
flame for the fair-haired daughter of a local haberdasher, and 
had serenaded her in company, the former with his clarionet, 
the latter with a cornet-&~piston, until one evening the indig- 
nant parents emptied their water-jugs over them. Later 
Zola dreamt of encountering "fair beings in his rambles, 
beautiful maidens, who would suddenly spring up in some 
strange wood, charm him for a whole day, and melt into air 
at dusk." 8 And at last a young girl, Gratienne, flits by in 
the moonlight near the Clos des Chartreux, with her heavy 

1 Zola's " Nos Auteurs Dramatizes,' 7 p. 42, 

2 " Documents Litt&aires," p. 90. 
* " I/CEuvry Chap. II, 


tresses of raven hair resting on her young white neck ; 1 but 
even she remains little more than a vision, and as yet, 
neither into Zola's life nor his friends' does woman, the real 
creature of flesh and blood, really enter, to achieve that 
work of disillusion by which she almost invariably destroys 
the youthful ecstacy which she, or her semblance, has in- 
spired. Ninon, the Ninon of the "Contes," 2 comes later. 
As yet she is only dreamt of, though the name by which 
she is to be known to the world is already suggested by an 
old gravestone in the cemetery, with only the word " Nina " 
remaining of its time-worn inscription : 

" Ami, te souviens-tu de la tombe noircie, 

Tout ail bord d'une all^e, a demi sous les fleurs, 
Qui nous retint longtemps, et nous laissa reveurs ? 

Le marbre en est ronge par les vents et la pluie. 
Elle songe dans 1'herbe et, discrete, se tait, 

" Souriante et sereine au blond soleil de mai. 

" Elle songe dans 1'herbe, et, de sa reverie, 
'. La tombe, chastement, & ceux qui passent la, 
Ne livre que le nom effac6 

Ami, te souviens-tu, nous la rev&mes belle, 
Et depuis, bien souvent, sans jamais parler d'elle, 
Nos regards se sont dit, dans un dernier regret r 
* Si je 1'avais connue, oh ! Ninette vivrait ! ' " * 

But serious trouble was now impending in Zola's home. 
While he studied at the college, while his heart opened and 

1 Zola's Yerses, " A mes Amis " (Lycee St. Louis, 1858). 

2 Zola's first book, inspired largely by memories of Provence, and issued in 
Paris in 1864. 

* Zola's "Nina," 1859. Readers of "La Fortune des Kougon" (which 
Zola wrote some ten years later) will remember that the old tombstone figures 
also in that work, in which the inscription is given as "Here lieth . , . Marie 
. . died . . . ," the finger of time having effaced the rest. There is, how- 
ever, an evident connection between the names Nina and Ninon, and perhaps 
they suggested Nana. 


Ms mind expanded, the position of his mother and grand- 
parents gradually became desperate. All the savings, even 
the Auberts* funds, were exhausted; the lawsuits still 
dragged on, entailing heavy costs, which drained the home 
of all resources. Already in 1855, the rent in] the Kue 
Bellegarde proving too heavy, it became necessary to take 
a cheaper lodging on the Cours des Minimes. Then, early 
in 1857, that also was found too dear ; and two little rooms 
were rented at the corner of the Eue Mazarine. They over- 
looked the Barri, 1 a lane-like chemin-de-ronde encompassing 
the old town, with small and sordid houses on one hand, 
and the crumbling ramparts on the other. 

Here black ruin fell upon the Zolas and the Auberts. 
The aged but active grandmother toiled to the very last, 
managing the household, raising money on goods and chat- 
tels, resisting the wolf at the door with all the energy of 
despair. Bit by bit, every superfluous article of furniture 
was sold; remnants of former finery were carried to the 
wardrobe dealers, to obtain the means of purchasing daily 
bread and paying Smile's college fees. As for the lawsuits, 
they remained in abeyance from lack of funds. And blow 
following blow, poor Madame Aubert could at last resist no 
longer, but sickened and died. That happened in Novem- 
ber, 1857. During the previous month Emile Zola had 
returned to the college, entering the second class. Towards 
Christmas his despairing mother started, alone, for Paris, to 
implore the help of some of the personages who had for- 
merly favoured her husband. The old and almost helpless 
Monsieur Aubert remained at Aix with his young grand- 
son, who, after an anxious period of suspense, received 
1 From the mediaeval Latin, bamum (Duoange). 


in February a letter from Ms mother, running much as 
follows : 

" It is no longer possible to continue living at Aix:. Sell 
the little furniture that is left. You will in any case obtain 
sufficient money to enable you to take third-class tickets to 
Paris for yourself and your grandfather. Manage it as soon 
as possible. I shall be waiting for you." 

Young Smile acted in accordance with those instructions, 
but he could not tear himself away from Aix tod his friends 
without making with the latter a farewell excursion to Le 
Tholonet and the larrage of the canal reservoir planned by 
his father. When he at last took the train with old M. 
Aubert, his heart was heavy at the thought that he might 
never see Provence again. But in that respect his fears 
were not realised. 

On reaching Paris, he found his mother residing at No. 63 
Eue Monsieur-le-Prince, near the Luxembourg palace. She 
had obtained some assistance from friends, one of whom, 
Maitre Labot, 1 recommended 15 mile to D&sir Nisard, the 
critic and historian, famous for having tried to demon- 
strate that there were two moralities ; and Nisard speedily 
procured him a free scholarship at the Lycde or college of 
St. Louis. This was by Madame Zola's express wish, for, 
however great might be her misfortunes, she desired that 
her son might continue his studies. 

But Paris now seemed a horrible place to the youthful 
Smile. All was gloom there. Orsini, Pieri, and Eudio had 
attempted the life of Napoleon III outside the opera-house 
a few weeks previously, and a kind of terror prevailed under 
the iron rule of General Espinasse and the new Law of 

i See ante, p. 27. 


Public Safety. Zola regretted the hills and the sun of Pro- 
vence, the companionship of Bailie and Cdzanne ; he felt lost 
among his new school-fellows, four hundred in number ; and 
his poverty and shabbiness increased his bitterness of spirit, 
for the lads attending St. Louis were all more fortunately 
circumstanced than himself. That Lyc^e, which then faced 
the Eue de la Harpe the transformation of the old Quar- 
tier Latin by the tracing of the Boulevard St. Michel being 
as yet uneffected ranked third among the great colleges 
of Paris ; and among those who had sat on its benches 
were the second Dr. Baron Corvisart, Gounod the com- 
poser, Egger the Hellenist and poet, Havet the Latinist 
and historian of early Christianity, and Nettement, whose 
account of French literature under the Restoration isi 
still worthy of perusal. Other pupils, before Zola's time, 
were Henri Eochefort the erratic journalist and politician, 
Charles Floquet the advocate, who became prime minister 
of France ; Dr. Tripier, one of the pioneers in the application 
of electricity to medicine, and the well-known General de 
Galliffet. Many of the professors also were able men who 
rose to eminence, and in such a college one might have 
thought that Zola would have made decisive progress. 

As it happened, he not only got on badly with his school- 
fellows, who on account of the southern accent he had 
acquired in Provence nicknamed him the " Marseillese," 
but, yielding to a brooding spirit, he neglected his 
lessons. It was only in French composition that he occa- 
sionally distinguished himself. One day, it appears, when 
the allotted subject was "Milton dictating 'Paradise Lost' 
to his daughter," he treated it so ably that the professor, 
M. Levasseur, the eminent historian of the French work- 


ing classes, publicly complimented him. Truth to tell, he 
now read a great deal, even in class time, still devouring the 
poets, but finding a delight also in Eabelais, Montaigne, and 
other prose authors. And he carried on an interminable 
correspondence with his friends in Provence, at times ad- 
dressing them in verse, at others launching into discussions 
on philosophy, morals, and aesthetics. It was now, too, that 
he wrote his tale, " La Fde Amoureuse," which was therefore 
the earliest of his " Contes k Ninon," in which volume it 
afterwards appeared. Thus, in spite of his declared prefer- 
ence for a scientific career, his literary bent was steadily 
asserting itself. 

At the end of his school year his only award was a second 
prize for French composition. Nevertheless, his mother, 
having scraped a little money together, allowed him to go to 
Provence for the vacation, which he spent with Bailie and 
C&sanne. But on coming back to Paris in October he fell ill 
with a mucous fever of such severity that more than once a 
fatal issue was feared. When, after a period of convales- 
cence, he returned to St. Louis, there entering the rhetoric 
class, two months had been lost and he still felt weak. 
Thus, though his new master, M. Lalanne, commended some 
of his work, notably his compositions, his progress was 
not great, particularly as his mind turned so frequently to 
Provence and his friends there, and hesitated between the 
scientific avocations of his choice and an increasing ambition 
to become a poet. When, however, the school year ended 
in August, 1859, his mother's position being as precarious as 
ever, he resolved to make an effort. He would skip the 
philosophy class and at once offer himself as a candidate 
for the degree of bachelor in sciences that, or a corre- 


sponding degree in letters, being a necessary passport for 
eventual admission into the recognised professions or the 
government service. 

The result of Zola's attempt was singular. In his written 
examination he proved very successful, his name appearing 
second on the list ; but in the ensuing mvft-wce examina- 
tion, after securing good marks in physics, chemistry, and 
natural history, fair ones in pure mathematics, algebra, 
and trigonometry, he collapsed in literature and modern 
languages. He post-dated Charlemagne's death by five 
hundred years, scandalised the examiner by a romantic 
interpretation of one of La Fontaine's fables, and virtually 
confessed his utter ignorance of German. Thus his mark 
was zero ; and though, it would seem, the examiners in 
sciences interceded in his favour with the examiner in lelles 
lettres, the latter remained obdurate and would not modify 
the mark. Zola was therefore " sent back," for it was not 
allowable that a bachelor in sciences should be absolutely 
nul en litterature. 1 

Several years previously Alexandre Dumas fits had been 
" ploughed " for the very same reason. Two distinguished 
men of Zola's own generation, Alphonse Daudet and Fran- 
<jois Coppfe, also failed to secure bachelors' degrees ; yet, like 
Zola himself, they became eminent writers. Of course it is 
impossible to found any valid argument for or against 
degrees on a few isolated instances. It may be doubted, 
perhaps, whether they are any great recommendation to the 
literary man who is a dramatist or a novelist or a poet. 
But Zola's literary aspirations did not enter into his scheme 
when he offered himself for examination ; he merely wished 

1 Alexis, L c. t pp. 40, 41. 


to secure a certificate, as it were, qualifying him for em- 
ployment in one of the semi-scientific hranches of the gov- 
ernment service. In that respect his failure was a severe 
disappointment, particularly to his mother, who had set all 
her hopes upon him, and was distressed to find that the 
promise of his college days at Aix remained unfulfilled. At 
the same time, mother-like, she blamed the examiners more 
than she blamed him, and once more she provided him with 
enough money to spend the summer vacation in Provence. 1 
A week after he had been " ploughed " at the Sorbonne, Zola 
was again roaming the hills, in a blouse and hob-nailed 
boots, accompanied by his usual intimates. 

There was also no little writing of poetry on Zola's part 
during those holidays, the influence of Musset still being in 
the ascendant, as is shown by a piece entitled " Rodolpho," 
in which one can further detect the change which Parisian 
life, particularly that of the Quartier Latin, where he had 
his home, was now effecting in the youth who had awoke, 
in Provence, to little more than ideal love. Musset like- 
wise inspires some verses entitled " Vision," also dating from 
this time ; but a perusal of the " Contes de La Fontaine," a 
book which no discipline seems able to keep out of French 
colleges, plainly suggested "Le Diable ermite," in which the 
good Abb^s erotic style was imitated only too successfully. 
Another piece, entitled " Religion," shows that the young 
versifier, the former winner of prizes for " religious instruc- 
tion," was already losing his faith under the influence, no 
doubt, of Parisian surroundings. In this effort he is found 

1 It seems probable that lie had already spent Ms Easter holidays there that 
year ; for some of his verses, "Ce <p.e je veux," are dated Aix, May, 1859. 
See Alexis, L c., p. 297. 


calling on the Deity to manifest himself in order that 
he may believe in him, asking the why and the wherefore 
of things, and displaying a grim consciousness of the 
wretchedness of mankind. There are lines in this poem 
of his twentieth year which suggest the Zola of the last 

" Helas ! que tout est noir dans la valise humaine ! 
Les homines en troupeaux se parquent dans la plaine, 
Vivant BUT des gouts, qu*entoure un mur croulant." 

As his vacation drew to a close, Zola once more bestirred 
himself, and, after consultation with his friends, decided to 
make another attempt to secure the diploma which would 
prove an " open sesame " to regular employment. But he 
did not care to face the Paris examiners again ; he preferred 
to try those of Marseilles, thinking, perhaps, that they 
might prove more indulgent. So, taking up his books to 
refresh Ms memory, he lingered in Provence till November. 
At Marseilles, however, even his comparative success in 
Paris was denied him. He failed with his preliminary 
papers and was not even summoned for the vivfi-voce ex- 
amination. That defeat was decisive. When he returned 
to Paris he found his mother cast down by it ; the friends 
who helped her had lost all faith in his ability. It was 
useless for him to return to the Lyce*e. In another four 
months he would be twenty years of age ; he must no longer 
remain a burden on others, it was time for him to earn his 
own living. But how was he to do so ? The outlook was 
gloomy indeed. 




A clerkship at the Docks Napoleon Peregrinations through, the Quartier 
Latin Zola joined there by Ce"zanne He lives in a glass cage 
"L'Amoureuse Come"die" Poetry and poverty ''Genesis" 
Spring rambles The Quartier Latin in 1860 Love in a garret "La 
Confession de Claude," and the den in the Hue Soufflot The fairy of 
one's twentieth year Terrible straits " Playing the Arab " " Good 
for nothing " Help from Dr. Boudet Zola is engaged by M. Hachette 
and emerges from Bohemia Hachette' s authors and Zola Fresh Pere- 
grinations Short stories Zola's * * band " His correspondence with 
Antony Valabregue " Contes & Ninon " Zola weaned from idyl and 
fable *' Madame Bovary " Duality of Zola's nature His improved 
circumstances Newspaper articles The lesson, of " Henriette Mare- 
chal " ** La Confession de Claude " published Zola's opinion of it 
Barbey d'AureVilly's attack and a threatened prosecution Zola quits 
Hachette's, and refuses to pander to fools. 

AFTER choosing a scientific career, and then aspiring to 
poetic fame as great as that of Hugo or Musset, to sink even 
momentarily to a junior clerkship, worth sixty francs a 
month, 1 at the " Docks " in the Rue de la Douane, was hard 
indeed. Yet such became Zola's fate. Some who have 
written of the episode have fallen into various errors. An 
American account says that the young man "became a dock 
labourer; an English biographer has referred to his place 
of employment as a business house. But on consulting any 
plan of Paris as it was in 1860 or thereabouts, it will be 
seen that a great entrepot, with offices for the collection of 
the state customs and the municipal dues, then adjoined the 

1 2 8s. ; or about $12. 


" Docks Napoleon," where goods, coining into Paris by the 
St. Martin Canal, were landed. The establishment of this 
entrepot and its adjuncts was carried out between 1833 and 
1840 ; 1 the adjoining Eue de la Douane took its name from 
the enterprise ; and it was there, then, that Zola, after fail- 
ing at his examinations, secured employment as a clerk, the 
situation being found for him by his father's friend, Maltre 
Labot, the advocate. 

But the salary was the barest pittance. How could a 
young man of twenty live, in Paris, on two francs a day ? 
Moreover, there was no prospect whatever of any "rise." 
At the expiration, therefore, of two months, after trudging 
a couple of miles twice a day between the "Docks" and 
the Quartier Latin, passing on the road the great Central 
Markets, whose wondrous life he now began to observe, 
Zola threw up this employment; and from the beginning 
of March, 1860, till the end of that year, then all through 
1861, and the first three months of 1862, he led a life of 
dire Bohemian poverty. On arriving in Paris in February, 
1858, he had lived with his mother at 63, Eue Monsieur-le- 
Prince. Thence, in January, 1859, they had moved to 241, 
Eue St. Jacques, a narrow and ancient thoroughfare, long one 
of the main arteries of Paris, intimately associated, too, with 
the student history of the original Quartier Latin. But in 
April, 1860, at the time when Zola quitted the " Docks," he 
and his mother found a cheaper lodging at 35, Eue St. Victor, 
another old street, on the slope of the "Montagne Ste. 
Genev&ve," towards the Halle aux Vins and the Jardin des 

Lock's " Dictionnaire topograpMque et historiqae de 1'ancien 
Paris," Paiis, n. d. "but cir. 1856. 


Here Zola's room was one of a few lightly built garrets, 
raised over the house-roof proper, and constituting a seventh 
"floor"; the leads in front forming a terrace whence the 
view embraced nearly all Paris. While Zola was lodging 
here, living very precariously and trying by fits and starts 
to secure some remunerative work, his friend Paul Cezanne 
arrived from Aix with the hope of making his way in the 
art world of the capital. Cezanne was more fortunately cir- 
cumstanced than Zola, having a small monthly allowance to 
depend upon ; and it was perhaps by way of helping his friend 
that he at first took up his residence with him in that 
seventh-floor garret. Zola was wonderfully cheered by the 
companionship ; before long he again became as enthusiastic 
as Cezanne, and the two friends dreamt of conquering Paris, 
one as a poet, the other as a painter. 

When the summer arrived they often laid a paillasse on 
the terrace outside their attic, and spent the mild and starry 
night in discussing art and literature. Moreover, while 
Cezanne began to paint, Zola wrote another poem h la, Musset, 
which he entitled " Paolo " ; as well as a tale, " Le Garnet de 
Danse," which was subsequently included in " Les Contes k 
Ninon/' But there was no improvement in his position. 
Indeed, things went from bad to worse ; and in the autumn 
of the year, as he had too much delicacy to sponge on C- 
zanne, whose allowance, moreover, was only just sufficient 
for himself, they ceased to live together, though they re- 
mained close friends. 

About the same time Zola and his mother separated. 
She, over a term of years, had now and again secured some 
trifling sum of money by compromising one or another law- 
suit - sacrificing a considerable claim for little more than a 


morsel of bread. For the rest, she was helped by a few rela- 
tives of her own and by some friends of her deceased hus- 
band* In October, 1860, as her son could not as yet provide 
for her, she went to live at a pension in the Quartier Latin, 
assisted there, perhaps, by some friends, or else obtaining 
some employment in the house, for she was skilful with her 
needle. At all events, her son found himself for a time 
quite alone. 

He now went to reside in the Rue Neuve St. ^Jtienne du 
Mont, near the ancient church of that name, and his lodg- 
ing, as usual, was at the very top of the house. This time 
it was a kind of belvedere or glass cage in which Ber- 
nardin de St. Pierre, the author of " Paul and Virginia," was 
said to have sought a refuge from the guillotine during the 
Eeign of Terror. It was there, then, amid all the breezes 
of heaven, and inspired perhaps by the position of his re- 
treat, that Zola wrote another poem, called " L'A6rienne," 
which he added to the pieces entitled "Rodolpho" and 
"Paolo," the first written at Aix, the second in the Eue 
St. Victor. These three compositions formed, as it were, 
a trilogy which he named " L'Amoureuse Com^die," 
"Bodolpho" representing the hell, "L'A^rienne" the pur- 
gatory, and "Paolo" the paradise of love. 1 This done, he 
sought a publisher, or, as Paul Alexis puts it, he imagined 
he sought one. 

As a matter of fact, this slim, pale-faced poet, in his 
twenty-first year, with an incipient beard and long hair fall- 
ing over his neck, had become extremely timid in every- 
thing that pertained to ordinary life. He was not deficient 
in will power, but misfortune repeated rebuffs of all sorts 

1 Portions of the three poems are printed by Alexis, I. c. 


had deprived him of the ordinary confidence of youth in his 
intercourse with others. His circumstances were desperate 
enough. Alexis, when telling us that he composed his poem 
" L'A^rienne " in his glass cage near the sky, during the ter- 
ribly severe winter of 1860-1861, shows him fireless, shiver- 
ing in bed, with every garment he possesses piled over his 
legs, and his fingers red with the cold while he writes his 
verses with the stump of a pencil 

How does he live ? it may be asked. He himself hardly 
knows. Everything of the slightest value that he possesses 
goes to the Mont-de-Pitd ; he timidly borrows trifling sums 
of a few friends and acquaintances ; he dines off a penn'orth 
of bread and a penn'orth of cheese, or a penn'orth of bread 
and a penn'orth of apples ; at times he has to content him- 
self with the bread alone. His one beverage is Adam's ale ; 
it is only at intervals that he can afford a pipeful of tobacco ; 
his great desire when he awakes of a morning is to procure 
that day, by hook or crook, the princely sum of three sous 
in order that he may buy a candle for his next evening's 
work. At times he is in despair : he is forced to commit 
his lines to memory during the long winter night, for lack 
of the candle which would have enabled him to confide 
them to paper. 

Yet he is not discouraged. When " L'A^rienne " is finished, 
he plans another poetic trilogy, which he intends to call 
" Genesis." He is still at a loss for bread, but his chief con- 
cern is to beg, borrow, or, if possible, buy the "books which 
he desires to study before beginning his new poems. At 
last he plunges into the perusal of scientific works, consults 
Mourens on such subjects as longevity, instinct and intelli- 
gence, genius and madness, dips into Zimmermann's account 


of the origin of mankind and the marvels of human nature, 
reads Lucretius and Montaigne again, and prepares a plan of 
Ms intended composition. The first poem is to narrate " The 
Birth of the World " according to the views of modern 
science; the second to be called "Mankind" is to 
form a synthesis of universal history ; while the third, the 
logical outcome of the previous ones, is to be written in a 
prophetic strain showing " The Man of the Future " rising 
ever higher and higher, mastering every force of nature, and 
at last becoming godlike. 

But though that stupendous composition is long meditated, 
only eight lines of it are actually written. The long winter 
ends, the spring comes, and Zola turns to enjoy the sun-rays 
at times in the Jardin des Plantes, which is near his 
lodging, at others along the quays of the Seine, where he 
spends hours among the thousands of second-hand books 
displayed for sale on the parapets. And all the life of the 
river, the whole picturesque panorama of the quays as they 
were then, becomes fixed in his mind, to supply, many years 
afterwards, the admirable descriptive passages given in the 
fourth chapter of his novel " L'CEuvre." There it is Claude 
Lantier who is shown walking the quays with his sweet- 
heart Christine. And Zola was certainly not alone every 
time that he himself paced them. We know to what a 
young man's fancy turns in springtime; and he was as 
human as others. He lived, moreover, in the Quartier 
Latin, which still retained some of its old freedom of life, in 
spite of the many changes it was undergoing. 

Baron Haussmann had set pick and spade to work there, 
and many an ancient tenement and court had been swept 
away in piercing the Rue des Ecoles and the Boulevard St. 


Michel, then called " Boulevard Sebastopol, Eive Gauche." 
At that time the Chaumi&re was dead, the Prado also had 
disappeared, and the Closerie des Lilas afterwards known 
as the Bal Bullier had lately been renovated, in fact 
transformed, as Privat d'Anglemont recorded in one of the 
last sketches he wrote prior to his death in 1859. And 
with the disappearance or alteration of the old dancing 
places and tabagies, with the demolition of many an ancient 
den and haunt, the inhabitants of the Quartier and their 
manners and customs were likewise altering. In fact, there 
was a great crisis in la vie de JBoMme. But though it was 
no longer such as it had been pictured by Murger, such as 
it had appeared to Theodore de Banville, who, recalling his 
youth, described it briefly yet forcibly a few years later, 1 it 
would be a mistake to imagine that it was altogether dead. 
Alphonse Daudet, who arrived in Paris from Ntmes a few 
months before Zola entered the Lyc^e St. Louis, has shown 
that many of the old habits and customs remained. Again, 
the writer of these pages, who knew the Quartier Latin well 
in the last years of the Second Empire, can recall that ves- 
tiges of its former life clung to it even till the war of 1870. 
There were still a few tenth-year students, still a few rapins, 
still a few grisettes, of a kind, lingering within its precincts. 
But the war proved the final coup de grace ; and the Quartier 
of the Third Eepublic with its chic students, its gambling 
hells, its demi-monde, its filles de "brasserie, its garish vulgar- 
ity, its mock propriety, has resembled the old one in little 
save its studiousness ; for, however much, for centuries 
past, its young men may have amused themselves, what- 

1 " Le Paris Guide par lea principaux SicriYairis de la France," Yol. II, 
Paris, 1867. 


ever their eccentricities, whatever their excesses, they have 
also studied, accumulated in that same Quartier a rich store 
of scholarship and science, which has enabled many of them 
to confer benefits on mankind. 

Zola, then, knew the former Quartier in its last lingering 
hours, when there were no longer any taverners who sold 
books for hard cash and bought them back for a snack or a 
drink, but when old clo'men still perambulated the streets, 
when La Californie and other IMnes still existed on the 
confines, and when L'Acad4mie, the grimy absinthe den, 
still flourished in the Eue St. Jacques under the patronage 
of litterateurs who never wrote, painters who never painted, 
and spurious students in law and medicine and what not 
besides. Those were the men of whom one said: "When 
they are not talking they drink, when they are not drink- 
ing they talk." How they lived nobody knew, but one of 
them, a notorious character, who after a few glasses of ab- 
sinthe would improvise the most extraordinary comic songs 
with rattling tunes, slept for some years in a stable. He 
was turned out of it one winter, and a few days later was 
found frozen to death in the moat of the fortifications near 

Zola, for his part, indulged in no such bibulous dissipa- 
tion, but he elbowed it often enough. And in his dis- 
tressful poverty, without guide or support, it was fatal that 
he should turn to such consolation as might be offered 
him. Thus he went the way of many another young man 
dwelling in the Quartier, finding at last a companion for 
his penury, not the ideal Ninon of whom he had dreamt 
in Provence, not the Musette nor the Mimi whom Murger 
portrayed with the help rather of his imagination than of 


his memory, but such a one as the Bohemia of the time 
still had to offer. 

A glimpse of his life at that moment is given in a few 
early newspaper articles, and particularly in one of his first 
hooks, " La Confession de Claude," which pictured the shame- 
less immorality prevailing in certain sets of the Quartier 
Latin, and the weakness that came upon even a well- 
meaning young man when cast into such a sphere. At the 
same time romance is blended with fact in the " Confession " ; 
and it would be quite a mistake to regard Claude's mis- 
tress, Laurence, as a portrait of the young woman to whom 
Zola became attached. At the same time, the aspirations 
of his nature are well revealed in that book, which beneath 
some literary exaggeration remains instinct with the genuine 
disappointment of one who has found the reality of love 
very different from his dream of it 

Some passages are certainly autobiographical. The scene 
is a maison meubUe, which stood near the Pantheon, in the 
Eue Soufflot before that street was widened and rebuilt. 
Zola betook himself thither on being expelled from his glass 
cage near St. Etienne du Mont for non-payment of rent. 
The house was tenanted by students, their mistresses and 
other women, and the life led there was so riotous and dis- 
orderly that more than once the police came down on the 
place and removed some of the female tenants to the prison 
of St. Lazare. Here, then, Zola gathered materials for " La 
Confession de Claude"; here he elbowed his characters 
Jacques, Paquerette, Laurence, and Marie, while sharing a 
life of the greatest privation with the companion who had 
come to him. "Provence, the broad, sunlit country-side, the 
tears, the laughter, the hopes, the dreams, the innocence 


and pride of the past had all departed ; only Paris with its 
mire, a garret and its misery, remained." l 

Again, real episodes find a place in the " Confession," 
memories of early days ; rambles in the valley of the 
Bifevre, amid the foetid stench of that sewer-like stream and 
the acreous odour of its tanneries; the first visit to the 
Closerie des Lilas, the disgust inspired there by the sight of 
all the harlots with their paint, their cracked voices, and 
their impudent gestures ; and then the excursion through 
the waste lands of Montrouge, the paths and fields of Ar- 
cueil and Bourg-la-Eeine, to Fontenay-aux-Roses, Sceaux, 
and the Bois de Verri&res. But one need not imagine that 
this trip was made with such a creature as the callous, 
shameless, helpless Laurence ; for, in recounting the episode 
elsewhere, Zola expressed himself as follows : 

" I thought of my last excursion to Fontenay-aux-Roses 
with the loved one, the good fairy of my twentieth year. 
Springtime was budding into birth, the path was bordered 
by large fields of violets. . . . She leant on my arm, lan- 
guishing with love from the sweet odour of the flowers. . . . 
Deep silence fell from the heavens, and so faint was the 
sound of our kisses that not a bird in all the hedges showed 
sign of fear. . . . We ascended to the woods of Verriferes, 
and there, in the grass under the soft, fresh foliage, we 
discovered some tiny violets. . . , Directly I found a fresh 
one I carried it to her. She bought it of me, and the price 
I exacted was a kiss. . . . And now amid the hubbub of the 
Paris markets I thought of all those things, of all that 
happiness. ... I remembered my good fairy, now dead and 
gone, and the little bouquet of dry violets which I still 

1 "La Confession de Claude," Nourelle fidition, 1903, p. 141. 


preserve in a drawer. When I returned home I counted 
their withered stems : there were twenty, and over my lips 
there passed the gentle warmth of my loved one's twenty 
kisses." l 

The man who has lived with a Laurence the creature 
who robs youth of all its flame and degrades it to the mire 
does not afterwards call her his good fairy. But what- 
ever the liaison, whatever its origin and its ending, it was 
certainly marked by most distressful circumstances. As 
the winter of 1861 approached, Zola's poverty became terri- 
ble. It was then, as he afterwards told Guy de Maupas- 
sant, 2 that he lived for days together on a little bread, 
which, in Provenal fashion, he dipped in oil; that he 
set himself to catch sparrows from his window, roasting 
them on a curtain rod; and that he "played the Axab," 
remaining indoors for a week at a time, draped in a cover- 
let, because he had no garments to wear. Not only did 
he himself starve, but the girl who shared his poverty 
starved with him; and Paul Alexis and Maupassant and 
"Claude's Confession" relate how, at one moment of des- 
peration, on a bitter winter evening, after an unbroken 
fast of thirty-six hours, he took off his coat on the Place 
du Pantheon and bade his tearful companion carry it to 
the pawnshop. 

" It was freezing. I went home at the run, perspiring the 
while with fear and anguish. Two days later my trousers 

1 See E. A. Vizetelly's Introduction to "The Fat and the Thin" ("Le 
Yentrede Paris") London, 1896. The original appeared in "Le Figaro,' 
November 20, 1866 ; and Zola reprinted portions of it, altered out of regard 
for his wife, in " Nouveaux Contes & Ninon," 1874. 

2 "Kerne Bleue," March 10, 1883; and "Celehrite*s contemporaries, '' 
Vol. I, Paris, 1883. 


followed my coat, and I was bare. I wrapped myself in a 
blanket, covered myself as well as possible, and took such 
exercise as I could in my room, to prevent my limbs from 
stiffening. When anybody came to see me I jumped into 
bed, pretending that I was indisposed." 

Very little money can have been lent him on his few gar- 
ments. He often used to say in after-life that the only coat 
he possessed in that year of misery ended by fading from 
black to a rusty green. Thus, when he went hither and 
thither soliciting employment, he was very badly received. 
"I gathered that people thought me too shabby. I was 
told, too, that my handwriting was very bad ; briefly, I was 
good for nothing. . . . Good for nothing that was the 
answer to my endeavours ; good for nothing unless it were 
to suffer, to sob, to weep over my youth and my heart. . . . 
I had grown up dreaming of glory and fortune, I awoke to 
find myself stranded in the mire." 

But it is a long lane that has no turning. At the 
close of 1861, an eminent medical man, Dr. Boudet of the 
Academy of Medicine, who had either been connected with 
the Lycde St. Louis or had acted as one of the examiners 
when Zola had attempted to secure a bachelor's degree, gave 
the young man a letter of recommendation to M. Louis 
Hachette, the founder of the well-known publishing busi- 
ness. Zola called at the firm's offices, but, for the time, he 
could only obtain a promise of the first suitable vacancy. 
Meantime, Dr. Boudet, moved by the sight of his pitiable 
poverty, came to his help in an ingenious manner. On the 
occasion of a new year the Parisiaus of the more prosperous 
classes invariably exchange visiting cards, and the doctor 
asked Zola to distribute those which he intended for his 


friends. At the same time the worthy scientist slipped a 
twenty-franc piece into the young man's hand as remunera- 
tion for his trouble. This discreetly veiled charity at least 
saved Zola from actual starvation during the festive season ; 
but his heart remained heavy, and his feelings were not 
devoid of envy when he found that several of the doctor's 
cards were addressed to the prosperous parents of his former 
school-fellows at St. Louis. 

However, a month later, February, 1862, he entered the 
"Bureau du Materiel" at Hachette's establishment, Ms 
salary being fixed at a hundred francs a month, an average 
of 2s. 8d. per diem; 1 and his duties, during the first few 
weeks, being confined to packing books for delivery. A 
little later he was promoted to the advertising department, 
with a slightly increased salary. He was now at least 
" assured of daily bread. Naturally painstaking and consci- 
entious, he had done with Bohemia for ever ; he had begun 
life, he was saved." a 

Yet it was only by force of will that he accustomed him- 
self to a round of comparative drudgery. If Bohemianism 
implied poverty, it meant liberty also ; and, like many of us, 
Zola found it hard to have to work regularly, at set tasks 
and set hours. Again, it worried him that he had no oppor- 
tunity to read all the books that passed through his hands. 
But necessity compelled obedience to discipline, and he 
ended by discharging his clerkly duties fairly well, while 
allowing full rein to his literary bent every evening and 
every Sunday. He turned, however, from poetry to prose, 
not, it would seem, because he doubted his poetical faculty, 

1 About sixty-four cents, American currency. 

2 Alexis, I. c, 9 p. 56. 



but because after all his sufferings he was impatient for 
success. Until that success should arrive he felt, rightly 
enough, that for ten publishers who might be willing to buy 
a volume of his prose he would not find one inclined to risk 
money on a volume of his verse. Everything tends to 
show, indeed, that the dreamer of the belvedere in the Eue 
St. fitienne du Mont was awaking to full consciousness of 
the stern and often unjust laws of the modern world, that, 
enlightened, instructed by his sojourn in Bohemia, he was 
ripening into a practical man. 

In the advertising department of Messrs. Hachette's busi- 
ness the young clerk became acquainted with some of the 
authors whose works were published by the firm. He only 
occasionally caught sight of such celebrities as Guizot, Lamar- 
tine, Michelet, Littr, and Duruy, the Minister of Public 
Instruction ; but other writers dropped in to inquire what ar- 
rangements were being made for launching some forthcoming 
work, or how the sales of a recent book were progressing, for 
that also was a matter with which Zola had to deal. Among 
the men with whom he thus had some intercourse were mis- 
cellaneous writers like Francis Wey, travellers like Ferdinand 
de Lanoye, popular novelists like Amddfe Achard, a dozen 
of whose fifty romances largely of Dumas' semi-historical 
pattern were published by Hachette. Then there was 
the scholarly Pr&vost-Paradol, to whom Zola was attracted, 
for he had been professor of French literature at the 
faculty of Aix before embracing journalism and becoming 
a leading exponent of Orleanist doctrines, liberal, though 
scarcely democratic, views. His chief work, "La France 
Nouvelle," a classic for all who would study the condi- 
tion of French society in the middle period of the nine- 


teenth century, was not yet written ; but Hachette already 
issued his "Etudes sur les Moralistes Franais" and his 
" Essai sur I'Histoire Universelle." 

Another visitor, one who called as a reviewer of the pro- 
vincial press, not as an author, for he published his books 
elsewhere, was Duranty, a young novelist with an original, 
strongly marked personal talent, whose first book, " Le Mai- 
heur d'Henriette G&ard," had proved fairly successful, but 
who, in the end, failed to secure public recognition, though 
Zola became quite an admirer of his work in a measure, 
perhaps, because it departed from most of the recognised 
canons and showed Duranty to be a man who, appreciated 
or not, followed his own bent and disdained to copy others. 

But one of Hachette's leading authors at that time was 
Edmond About, the " nephew of Voltaire/' who a few months 
before Zola was engaged by the firm had given it his vivid 
"Lettres d'un bon jeune homme," written aupas de charge, 
to the music, as it were, of a flourish of trumpets. Then, in 
1862, in Zola's time, Hachette published About's fanciful 
" Gas de M. Gudrin," and in the following year his novel 
"Madelon," which would be perhaps his best book had he 
not insisted unduly on its setting, with the result that it 
now seems somewhat old-fashioned. " Madelon," however, 
is to About what " La Dame aux Camillas " is to Dumas JHs t 
"La Fille Elisa" to the Goncourts, " Sapho " to Daudet, and 
"Nana" to Zola. The young clerk read this book with 
keen and appreciative interest. 

But of all the authors calling at his office, the one who 
most frequently lingered there to chat for a few minutes 
was the great critic Taine. He was then writing his " His- 
toire de la Literature Anglaise " (1863-1864), and, on ac- 


count, perhaps, of Ixis contributions to the Prench reviews 
or of his "Philosophes classiques du XIX e S&cle" he 
occasionally found letters awaiting him at Hachette's. 
These were handed him by Zola, in whose presence he 
opened them. At times they were simply abusive, at others 
they warned him to be careful of his soul, and in either case 
they were anonymous. But Taine on receiving any such 
missive merely laughed and shrugged his shoulders. "It 
is of no account," he would say, " it only comes from some 
poor benighted country priest. I am anathema to the 
village cures" 

Zola received no help or encouragement from the authors 
he met at Hachette's, but this is not surprising; in the 
first years, at all events, they knew nothing of his literary 
proclivities, and he was too timid to reveal them. He had 
now moved from the den in the Rue Soufflot to an old house, 
a former convent, in the Impasse St. Dominique, near the 
Eue Royer Collard, where he occupied a monastic room, 
overlooking a large garden. Thence he betook himself to 
the Rue Neuve de la Pdpinifere, between the fortifications 
and the Montparnasse cemetery, over which the view from 
his window extended. But his peregrinations were inces- 
sant, and at the beginning of the winter of 1863 he moved 
again, this time to 7, Rue des Feuillantines, a turning out 
of the Rue St. Jacques. Nearly all his spare time was given 
to writing. Thinking of the Bohemianism from which he 
had lately emerged, he began his novel " La Confession de 
Claude " ; then put it by for a time, and devoted himself to 
short stories. His "Fde Amoureuse" 1 had been printed 
in an Aix newspaper, "La Provence"; and he now (1863) 

1 See ante, p. 49. 


secured the insertion of a story called " Simplice," and 
another, "Le Sang," in the " Revue du Mois," issued at 
Lille. Others followed: "Les Voleurs et 1'Ane," reminis- 
cent of Bohemia ; " Soeur des Pauvres," written in full view 
of the Montparnasse cemetery ; and " Celle qui m'aime," in 
which, after f eerie, parable, and pure romance, a touch of 
realism first appeared in Zola's work. He sent this last 
tale to Henri de Villemessant for the latter's then weekly 
journal, " Le Figaro," but the manuscript came back " declined 
with thanks." 

Another attempt to secure the honours of print, this time 
with his poetic trilogy, "L'Amoureuse Corn^die," proved 
equally unsuccessful. One Saturday evening, says Alexis, 
he timidly deposited the manuscript on M. Hachette's table, 
and on the Monday morning his employer sent for him. He 
had glanced at the poems, and though he was not disposed 
to publish them, he spoke to the young author in a kindly 
and encouraging manner, raised his salary to two hundred 
francs a month, and even offered him some supplementary 
work. For instance, he commissioned him to write a tale 
for one of Ms periodicals, one intended for children, and it 
was then that Zola penned his touching " Soeur des Pauvres " ; 
but M. Hachette deemed it too revolutionary in spirit, and 
did not use it. 

Zola's circumstances having now improved, he again 
sought a new home, and finding commodious quarters at 
278, Rue St. Jacques, near the military hospital of the Val 
de (Mce, he took his mother to live with him. Her father, 
the aged M. Aubert, who, it seems probable, had retained 
or recovered some slender means in the course of the canal 
lawsuits, had died in 1862; but around the mother and 


her son were now gathered the latter's early friends, who, 
like Mm, had come from Aix to Paris. Paul C&zanne, 
Jean-Baptiste Bailie, Marius Roux, and Solari, with Zola 
himself, formed a small, enthusiastic, ambitious band, such 
as was afterwards described so faithfully in "L'CEuvre." 
From time to time also, Antony Valabrkgue, the future 
poet and critic, visited the capital, and on returning to 
Aix corresponded with Zola, whose letters 1 were very 

One gleans from them that in 1864 Zola submitted some 
of his poetical pieces to L'Acaddmie des Jeux Floraux of 
Toulouse, which * crowned " none of them ; that he attended 
the evening literary lectures at the Salle des Conferences 
in the Rue de la Paix, and " reported," for some paper which 
is not specified, the accounts given of Chopin, " Gil Bias," 
Shakespeare, Aristophanes, La Bruy&re's " Caractkres," Miche- 
let's "37 Amour" and the philosophy of Moli&re. 2 In April 
that year he had as yet done nothing with the various short 
stories to which reference has been made ; and he thought 
of leaving them in abeyance while he completed the novel, 
"La Confession de Claude," which he had begun in 1862. 
Three months later, however, the stories were sold, and 
Zola wrote to Valabr&gue : " The battle has been short, and 
I am astonished that I have not suffered more. I am now 
on the threshold : the plain is vast and I may yet break 

* "La Grande Berne," Paris, 1893, Vol. XXVI, pp. 1-19, 241-262. 

2 These lectures were given first in the Rue de la Paix, later in the Rue 
Cadet, and later still in the Rue Scribe. They were most interesting and in- 
structive. The present writer often attended them in the last years of the 
Empire to hear Deschanel the elder, J. J. Weiss, Eugene Pelletan, Labou- 
laye, Legouve*, St. Marc-Girardin, Henri Martin, Sarcey, Wolowski, and 


my neck in crossing It ; but no matter, as it only remains 
for me to march onward I will march." 

Besides the tales already enumerated, Zola's first volume, 
which opened with a glowing dedication to Ninon, the ideal 
love of his youth, some passages being inspired, however, 
by the riper knowledge that had come to him from the more 
material love of Bohemian days, included " Les Aventures 
du Grand Sidoine et du Petit M^ddric," an entertaining fable 
of a giant and his tiny brother. Zola had sent his manu- 
script to M. Hetzel, then associated in business with M. 
Albert Lacroix, a scholarly man of letters who, a little later, 
founded the well-known Librairie Internationale and pub- 
lished several of the works of Victor Hugo: in return for 
which the great poet, whose own books were profitable, 
virtually compelled M. Lacroix to issue the works of his 
sons and his hangers-on, with the result that heavy losses 
frequently occurred. 

Hetzel and Lacroix agreed to publish Zola's tales (under 
the collective title . of " Contes k Ninon ") without exacting 
anything for the cost of production; but the author was 
to receive no immediate payment He, all eagerness to 
see his work in book-form, subscribed to every condition 
that was enunciated, and then ran home to tell his mother 
the good news. The volume was issued on October 24, 
1864, 1 which became a red letter day in Zola's life. Writing 
to Valabrfegue in the following January, he told him that 
more than half of the first edition (probably one of fifteen 
hundred copies) was then sold; and as the book at least 
made him known, procured him journalistic and literary 

1 No date appears on the title of the first edition (18mo, 3 francs), which 
bears the imprints of Hetzel and Lacroix, and Poupart-Davyl & Co., Printers. 


wort, lie felt greatly inspirited, though lie still remained 
at Hachette's, intending, lie said, to keep Ms post for sev- 
eral years if possible, in order to increase "the circle of 
his relations." Meantime, as it was necessary he should 
"make haste, and rhyming might delay him," he left the 
Muse for ulterior wooing, that is, if she should not 
then have grown angry, or have eloped with some more naif 
and tender lover than himself. Briefly, as he was writing 
prose to his personal advantage, he intended to persevere 

with it 

It may he said of Zola's first volume that it was gracefully, 
prettily written ; that more than one of the tales contained 
in it was a poem in prose. Brimful of the author's early 
life in Provence, his youthful fancies and aspirations, those 
" Contes k Ninon " gave no warning of what was to follow 
from his pen. And yet at the very time of writing most 
of them he was being weaned from romance and fable and 
idyl Not only had he taken considerable interest in 
About's * Madelon" but he had been studying Balzac, and 
particularly Flaubert's Madame Bovary," the perusal of 
which had quite stirred him. A man had come, axe in 
hand, into the huge and often tangled forest which Balzac 
had left behind him ; and the formula of the modem novel 
now appeared in a blaze of light When " Madame Bovary " 
was issued in 1860, the average Parisian, the average literary- 
man even, regarded it merely as a snccls de scandale. Many 
of those who praised the book failed to understand its real 
import; and when Flaubert was satirised in the popular 
theatrical rfoue, "Qh6l les petite Agneaux," half Paris, by 
way of deriding him, hummed the trivial lines sung by the 
actress who impersonated "Madame Bovary": 








Qu'importe ! c'est bfficlel, 
On vit quatre e*diteurs me suivre : 
Oui, Paul, MatMeu, Pierre, et Michel 
Voulurent imprimer mon livre I . . , 
Craignant mes excentricite*s 
Mathieu ne vit pas mon me'rite ; 
Paul ne vit pas mes quality's, 
Pierre ne vit pas mes beaute*s, 

Mais Michel les vit 

Mais Michel les vit x 
Tout de suite ! " 

Zola, however, did not laugh or jeer at " Madame Bovary* " ; 
he felt that a literary evolution might be at hand, as is 
shown by his subsequent correspondence with Valabr&gua 
The struggle which was to last all his life, one between his 
reason and his imagination, was beginning, if indeed it had 
not begun previously ; for the oscillation which one observes 
in his writings between romanticism and realism or 
naturalism as the latter became in its advanced stage 
would indeed seem to be only a continuation of what had 
happened in his school days, when, in spite of proficiency 
in literary subjects, he had elected to follow a scientific 
course of study, in the midst of which, however, his literary 
bent had still and ever asserted itself. Novalis has said : 
" Every person who consists of more than one person is a 
person of the second power or a genius," If that be true, 
then Zola was certainly a genius; for there were always 
two men in him. And, in any case, those who desire to 
understand him aright should never lose sight of the duality 
of his nature. 

But at the stage of his career which one has now reached, 

1 A pun on the name of the publisher, Michel Le*vy. It must he admitted 
that while the authors of " One ! les petits Agneaux " scoffed at Flaubert, they 
gave him a splendid advertisement. 


the realist, the naturalist, had not fully arisen. We find 
him appearing in Zola's next book, "La Confession de 
Claude,'* and in sundry newspaper articles, which, like the 
'* Confession," were issued in 1865. After working ten hours 
a day at Hachette's, the young man, on returning to his 
home which in the year mentioned was first at 142, 
Boulevard Montparnasse, near a shooting gallery which 
prevented him from working, and a little later at 10, Rue de 
Vaugirard, where he had a balcony overlooking the Luxem- 
bourg gardens at once turned to the " Confession/' or else 
to the press-work he had secured. Every week he wrote an 
article of from one hundred to one hundred and fifty lines 
for the " Petit Journal," and often another, running from five 
to six hundred lines for the " Salut Public," then the chief 
organ of the Lyons press. The former newspaper paid Mm 
twenty francs for each article ; the latter, from fifty to sixty 
francs. Thus he now made an average of two hundred 
francs a month by his pen. 1 It was also at this period that 
he contributed a few short tales, notably "La Vierge au 
Cirage," to that somewhat demi-mondain periodical "La 
Vie Parisienne," and that he wrote a one-act comedy, " La 
Laide," which he sent to the Oddon Theatre, whose manager 
declined to stage it. 

But the articles in the " Salut Public " attracted attention, 
and Zola afterwards reprinted some of them in a volume 
called " Mes Haines." The germ of the Zola of later times 
will be found in several of those early papers. The one 
on Taine is perhaps the best ; and, when one remembers that 
it was written by a young man in his twenty-fifth year, the 
real understanding and critical insight which it discloses 

1 Zola to Valafcr&gue, February 6, 1865. 


appear all the more creditable. Another notable article was 
a bold, disdainful review of Napoleon Ill's "Histoire de 
Jules Ctesar," containing, in the usual veiled language of the 
times, the first indication that Zola held Republican opin- 
ions. Again, two articles on " Le Supplice d'une Femme " 
and the Dumas-Girardin scandal connected with that trag- 
edy are in their way interesting, while another on the 
" Germinie Lacerteux " of Edmond and Jules de Goncourt is 
particularly noteworthy as showing the progress of Zola's 
evolution towards naturalism in literature. 

This article was favourable to the book, whose authors it 
pleased; and some communications having been exchanged, 
the young journalist secured a seat for that famous first 
performance of " Henriette Marshal," which ranks as one 
of the mos.t uproarious nights in the history of the Com^die 
Franaise. [The audience, Zola tells us, 1 began to hiss 
before the curtain rose ; the storm burst forth at the first 
words spoken by the actors. The opening scene, laid at 
the opera-house on the night of a masked ball, scandalised 
the old habitues of the Com^die. Modern masqueraders and 
slang in the home of Racine and Corneille ! What sacri- 
lege ! But the greatest opposition to the piece came from 
the young Republicans of the time, who were not influenced 
by the merits or faults of the play, but simply by the fact 
that its performance at the Comddie was due to the influ- 
ence of the Emperor's cousin, the Princess Mathilde. 

Yet whatever might be the public dislike of that mem- 
ber of the reigning house, to whom a horrid nickname 
was currently given, whatever the notoriety of her liaison 
with the Count de Nieuwerkerke, the " Superintendent of 

1 " Les Romanciers Naturalistes," Paria, 1881, p. 238. 


Fine Arts," it was somewhat hard for the Goncourts that 
their play should be rendered responsible for her lapses. 
But good came out of evil, as the saying goes ; if " Henriette 
Marshal" was hissed off the stage, the fracas made the 
Goncourts famous. Two nights of uproar contributed more 
to popularise their name and to win readers for their works 
than years of zealous toil. They had long been esteemed in 
literary circles, but hitherto they had remained unknown to 
the great public. Their novels, like their historical works, 
had secured no large sales, whereas now all was altered, and 
the change, and the circumstances which wrought it, pro- 
duced a deep impression on Emile Zola, confirmed him in 
the view which he had already begun to entertain, that fame 
in the modern literary world depended largely on a resound- 
ing coup-de-pistolet. 

He was fairly well pleased with the result of his volume 
of " Contes," but prior to the " Henriette Marshal " scandal l 
he had already declared that he would greatly have preferred 
a severe " slating " to some of the milk-and-water praise of 
his reviewers. As he wrote to Valabr&gue, however, he 
lived in the hope that his next book, "La Confession de 
Claude," would almost " decide his reputation." It was pub- 
lished by Lacroix, on November 25, 1865, 2 at the Librairie 
Internationale, which he had now established in conjunction 
with a Flemish confrere, Verboeckhoven ; and this time the 
arrangement with Zola was that the latter should receive a 

1 The first performance took place on December 5, 1865, 

2 Though " 1866 " appears on the title-page, the above is the exact date of 
publication and registration at the Ministry of the Interior. Alexis is there- 
fore in error when he says the book appeared in October. The question of 
date has some importance in connection with Zola's departure from Hachette's 
and the cause thereof. 


royalty of ten per cent, or thirty centimes, 1 for every 
copy sold. As, however, only fifteen hundred copies were 
printed, the sale of the entire edition represented less than 
twenty pounds 2 for the author; and it so happened that 
the book was not reissued till 1880. 

From this it might be inferred that it proved an absolute 
failure; but such was hardly the case. Certainly it was not 
a perfect book. Zola himself afterwards wrote that the 
observer occasionally vanished from its pages, allowing the 
poet to appear, a poet who had drunk too much milk and 
eaten too much sugar. "It was not," said he, "a virile 
work ; it was the cry of a weeping, rebellious child" But 
with all its faults it bore the impress of sincerity ; Daudet's 
" Sapho," though far superior as literature, leaves one cold 
when one turns to it after perusing Zola's feverish pages. 
If the public did not rush to buy the "Confession," the 
critics, at all events, paid it considerable attention, and 
several assailed it unmercifully. For instance, Barbey 
d'Aurdvilly, writing in the " Nain Jaune," declared that its 
" hero " was a toad, and that the author had simply spun 
out, over three hundred and twenty pages, what Cambronne, 
who commanded the Old G-uard at Waterloo, had expressed 
in a single word. But what particularly roused Zola's ire 
was that "le Catholique hyst&rique," as he subsequently 
nicknamed Barbey d'Aur^villy, maliciously referred to the 
"Confession" as "Hachette's little book," whereas that firm 
had nothing to do with it. Zola therefore addressed a letter 
of protest to the " Nain Jaune." 8 

i About Sd. ; or six cents (American). 
8 Say $100. 

8 K. H. Sherard's "JSinile Zola: A Biographical and Critical Study." 
London, 1895, pp. 52, 53. 


But he had already decided to sever Ms connection with 
his employers. Since the death of M. Louis Hachette in 
the summer of 1864, the young man's position in the firm 
had been growing difficult. His superiors looked askance at 
his literary efforts, as if they thought that he wrote stories 
and articles in the time for which they paid him. More- 
over, as they themselves did not deal in revolutionary litera- 
ture, they did not care to have one of their clerks associated 
with such work. "La Confession de Claude'* seemed to 
them too outspoken ; and a few days after its publication, 
that is, at the end of November, 1865, one of the partners 
said to Zola : " You earn two hundred francs a month here. 
It is ridiculous ! You have plenty of talent, and would do 
better to take up literature altogether. You would find 
glory and profit in it." 1 

Zola took the hint (conveyed pleasantly enough) and gave 
notice to leave at the end of the following January. And 
he was the better pleased at having adopted that course, and 
having averted, perhaps, a direct dismissal, as a few weeks 
after the appearance of "La Confession de Claude" the 
Procureur Imperial, otherwise the public prosecutor, influ- 
enced by certain reviews of the book, caused some inquiries 
to be made at Hachette's with respect to its author. No 
prosecution ensued, and " Madame Bovary " having escaped 
scot free, it is extremely doubtful if one would have suc- 
ceeded even in those days of judicial subserviency to the 
behests of the authorities, particularly as, whatever might 
be the subject-matter of the "Confession," it was instinct 
throughout with loathing and censure of the incidents it 
narrated. In any case, Zola, on writing to Valabrkgue early 

1 demand Xau's ' fimile Zola." 12mo, 68 pages, Paris, 1880. 


in January, 1866, with thoughts, perhaps, of "Henrietta 
Marshal " and the Goncourts in his mind, was by no means 
alarmed or cast down. If, said he, the "Confession" had 
damaged him in the opinion of respectable folk, it had also 
made him known ; he was feared and insulted, classed among 
the writers whose works were read with horror. For his 
part, he did not mean to pander to the likes or the dislikes 
of the crowd ; he intended to force the public to caress or 
insult him. Doubtless, indifference would be loftier, more 
dignified; but he belonged to an impatient age, and if he 
and his fellows did not trample the others under foot, the 
others would certainly pass over them, and, personally, he 
did not f' ~ ^ire to be crushed by fools. 

And now, then, having published two volumes, the first 
fairly well received, the second virulently attacked, he 
quitted Hachette's, to give himself up entirely to journal- 
ism and literature. 



Henri de Villemessant, the Bamum of the Parisiaii press His papers, 
" L']:5ve*nement " and "Le Figaro" The first interviews in French 
journalism Millaud and Timothee Trimm Girardin's fresh idea every- 
day Zola inaugurates " Literary Gossip " A glance at French litera- 
ture in. 1866 Zola, Littre*, and Michelet Zola's first impression of 
Alphonse Daudet The Librairie Fouvelle and the Librairie Interna- 
tionale Zola and the Open-Air School of Art Leopold Tabar and 
** L'GSuvre ** Zola's articles on the Salon of 1866 The great sensa- 
tion in the art- world A holiday at Bennecourt "Le Vceu d'une 
Morte " " Marbres et Piatres " " La Madeleine " A " definition of 
the novel " Hard times Zola in love More writings on art 
" Les Mysteres de Marseille " " Therese Raquin " Arsene Houssaye 
and his moral tag Ulbaah and "putrid literature" Ste.-Beuve's 
criticism and Zola's reply **Les Mysteres de Marseille" as a play 
** La Honte," otherwise *' Madeleine Ferat " First idea of the Bougon 

of the best-known Parisians of those days was Henri 
de Villemessant, a man typical of the period, with some- 
thing of Barnum and Balzac's " Mercadet " in his composi- 
tion. He was the son of one of the first Napoleon's dashing 
plebeian colonels by a young woman of noble birth, whose 
name he had to take and retain, after engaging in an unsuc- 
cessful lawsuit to prove the legitimacy of his birth and 
thereby secure a right to the name of his father. Coming to 
Paris as a young man, in the early days of Louis Philippe's 
reign, Villemessant conceived the idea that a fortune might 
be made by running a fashions journal on new lines ; and, 
under the patronage of La Taglioni, the famous ballet dancer, 


Be founded one called " La Sylphide," in which dressmakers 
and their creations, hairdressers and their restorers, corsets 
and cosmetics, in fact " beautifiers " of every description, 
were puffed in a skilful and amusing manner. "La Syl- 
phide " did not make Villemessant a millionaire, but the 
money and the experience he acquired in conducting it 
launched him into a very successful career. In the days of 
Charles X. there had been a newspaper called " Le Figaro," 
which had died as many newspapers die. The title having 
lapsed, anybody could appropriate it, and Villemessant, find- 
ing it to his liking, did so. He started, then, a weekly 
journal called "Le Figaro," which at first was devoted 
largely to things theatrical, and in particular to the charms, 
the wit, and the merits of actresses, not forgetting those of 
the demi-monde. 

The contents of "Le Figaro," in its early period, were 
often scurrilous ; unpleasant stories were current respecting 
the means by which paragraphs of green-room gossip were 
inserted or suppressed ; but Villemessant, paying no heed, 
went his way, prosperous and rejoicing. In course of time, 
like many another adventurer, he assumed some semblance 
of respectability, and imparted a literary touch to his journal. 
But, as its questionable days were still too recent for many 
folk to take to it, he decided to start, or rather revive for a 
time, another derelict newspaper, " L'Ev^nement," which he 
made a non-political morning daily. 

Villemessant had a remarkable scent for actualite and 
talent Almost every French writer popular from 1864 
onward, contributed for a time to " L'fi v6nement " or to "Le 
Figaro," which eventually took the other journal's place. 
Villemessant liked to capture his contributors young, when 



they were beginning to show their mettle, run them for a 
year or two, then toss them aside in order to make room for 
other promising debutants. Prom special circumstances a 
few men remained with him till the last, but the number of 
those whose connection with Villemessant's journals proved 
as brief as brilliant, was extraordinary* It may be said of 
him that if he did not originate he at least accentuated the 
personal note in French newspaper writing ; and, in conjunc- 
tion with his collaborateur, Adrien Marx, he was certainly 
the very first to introduce the "interview" into European 
journalism. 1 Later he became the sponsor of Henri Eoche- 
fort, who did so much to demolish the Second Empire. 

It was into the hands of Villemessant that Zola fell on 
quitting Hachette's. He, Zola, had already had some deal- 
ings with another singular and prominent newspaper pro- 
moter, Millaud, the first to produce a popular halfpenny 
daily in Paris, "Le Petit Journal," in whose columns Lo 
Lesp&s, a Parisian hairdresser, achieved journalistic celebrity 
as " Timoth^e Trimm." There was as much of a Barnum in 
Millaud as there was in Villemessant, but while the former 
was a thorough Hebrew Jew, the latter was a Christian one, 
who, whenever it suited his purpose, could be a liberal pay- 
master. And, besides, his manners were pleasant, even 
jovial; his greatest vice being an extreme partiality for the 
pleasures of the table, in which respect Ms contemporaries 
contrasted him with Dr. V4ron, another famous newspaper 
man of those times, saying, " V&ron is a gourmet, and Ville- 
messant a glutton." 

1 This was in the early sixties. Marx, who "interviewed" the boyish 
Prince Imperial, Baron James de Rothschild, M. de Lesseps, and many others, 
collected Ms articles in a volume entitled, " Indiscretions Parisiennes." 


Emile de Girardin, the father of the modern French press, 
who at the period one has now reached, 1866, was conduct- 
ing a paper called " La Libertd," which had little influence 
in Paris, had made himself responsible, in Louis Philippe's 
time, for a fresh idea every day not, it must he said, alto- 
gether successfully, for many of the ideas which he enun- 
ciated were mere paradoxes. Villemessant, who owed much 
to Girardin, was an equally great believer in novelty ; but 
being less versatile, and suffering, moreover, from a laborious 
digestion, which consumed much of his time, he did not 
often have ideas of his own. So he purchased those of 
others. He had taken, a wife while he was yet in his teens, 
and had two daughters, one married to his musical critic, 
Jouvin, the other to a M. Bourdin, who attended to some of 
his business matters, such as advertising and puffery. Bour- 
din called upon the Paris publishers, and at Hachette's 
offices he met Zola. The latter, having decided to quit the 
firm, told Bourdin of an idea he had formed ; it was com- 
municated to Villemessant, who at once offered to give Zola 
a trial. 

The matter was very simple, and will even appear trivial 
to present-day English and American journalists. Tinder 
the title of " Books of To-day and To-morrow," Zola proposed 
to contribute a variety of literary gossip to "L'fiv&e- 
ment," after the style of the theatrical gossip, already 
printed by that and other newspapers. Though publishers 1 
puffs appeared here and there, nobody had previously 
thought of doing for books and writers what many were 
already doing for plays, operas, actors, and especially 
actresses. The innovation took Villemessant's fancy ; and 
Zola, quitting Hachette's on January 31, 1866, published his 


first gossip in " L*fi v&aement " two days later. In one 
important respect Ms articles differed from the theatrical 
gossip of the time. Much of the latter was paid for by 
managers or performers; whereas Zola neither sought nor 
accepted "bribes from authors or publishers, but looked to 
" L'Ev&iement * for his entire remuneration. As mentioned 
previously, he had been engaged on trial, and thus no actual 
scale of payment had been arranged. When at the end of a 
month he called upon the cashier at " L'E v&iement " office 
he was both amazed and delighted to receive five hundred 
francs. 1 

Villemessant, for his part, was well pleased with the con- 
tributions. Though the time was not one of exceptional 
literary brilliancy, it had its interesting features, and the 
activity in the book-world was the greater as the first period 
of the Second Empire, that of personal rule, had not yet 
quite ended; the second period, that of the so-called 
"Empire liberal," dating only from the ensuing year, 1867. 
The Trench still possessed few liberties, the Government 
kept a strong curb on the political newspapers that were 
tolerated, and thus literature at least had a chance of at- 
tracting that wide attention of which politics so often 
despoil it. But it was also a degenerate time, the time of 
Clodoche at the opera-balls, of Offenbach's "Orph^e" and 
" La Belle Hdl&ne." Only a few months previously (Novem- 
ber, 1865), Victorien Sardou had produced his "Famille 
Benoiton," one of the very best of his many theatrical 
efforts, a stinging but truthful satire of some of the manners 
of the day, such as they had become in the atmosphere of 
the imperial rigimz. 

1 Alexis, 1. c. t p. 67. 


To the conditions of the time may be largely attributed 
certain features of its journalism, and of at least one branch 
of its literature, fiction. Again and again the most promi- 
nent articles in the majority of the Paris newspapers (only 
five or six of which were serious political organs) dealt with 
such women as Cora Pearl, Giulia Barucci, Anna Deslions, 
and Esther Guimond ; such men as Worth, the dressmaker, 
Markowski, the dancing master, Gramont-Caderousse, the 
spendthrift, and Mangin, the charlatan. The average boule- 
vardian novel beautified vice, set it amid all the glamour of 
romance. The adulterous woman was an angel, the courte- 
san quite a delightful creature, her trade a mere pecJiS 
mignm. The lovers, the seducers, were always handsome, 
high-minded, exceptionally virile, irresistible ; while the de- 
ceived husbands were of every kind, odious, tragic, pathetic, 
dffionnair, or simply ridiculous. And every " intrigue " was 
steeped in an odour of musk and suffused with a cloud of 

At the same time some of the great writers of the July 
Monarchy were still living. But if Hugo, the Olympian 
veteran, showed little sign of decay, either with his " Chan- 
sons des Eues et des Bois," or his " Travailleurs de la Mer," 
Dumas the elder was now at his last stage, and George 
Sand, bound by an agreement to the "Rvue des Deux 
Mondes," was deluging its readers with the mere milk and 
water of " Laura " and similar productions, though she 
treated others as a result, perhaps, of the vitiated taste of 
the hour to such strong and unsavoury meat as " Elle et 
Lui," to which Paul de Musset retorted with his pungent 
relev, " Lui et Elle." The recluse of Nohant was to produce 
good work yet, but that she herself should publicly flaunt 


tlie least excusable of her many amours was sad and 

Meantime other great workers, as diligent as she, were 
steadily pursuing their lifework. Iittr, whom Zola knew 
slightly, for Hachettes were his publishers, and on whom he 
called in his modest second-floor rooms in the Rue d'Assas, 
was continuing his great dictionary of the Trench language, 1 
and making his first attempt to enter the Academy, to be 
foiled, however, by the frantic bigotry of Bishop Dupanloup, 
whereas those minor lights, Camille Doucet and Provost- 
Paradol, secured without difficulty the honours of election. 
Then Littr^'s neighbour, Michelet, another of Hachette's 
authors whose quiet $oires Zola, like other young literary 
men, occasionally attended, was completing his History of 
Franca And there was much activity among historical 
writers generally, and, in particular, a large output of books 
throwing light on phases and personages of the great 

At that period also a little band of so-called Parnassian 
poets, inspired, some by Leconte de Lisle, and others by 
Baudelaire, but, for the most part, gifted with little breadth 
of thought, was imparting to French verse an extreme lit- 
erary polish, at times attaining real beauty of expression, 
and at others lapsing into a yrecwsitS, which neither sonority 
of sound nor wealth of imagery could save from being ridicu- 
lous. Meanwhile, in dramatic literature, Ponsard was pro- 
ducing his version of " Le Lion Amoureux," and Augier his 
"Contagion," the latter's success being due, however, more 
to political reasons than to any intrinsic merit. 2 Then, in 

1 The first volume had appeared in 1863. 

a Napoleon III. and Ms wife attended the first performance at the Ode"on 


fiction, if Edmond About seemed to have run to seed prema- 
ti|.rely with his interminable novel, "La Vieille Roche," 
Octave Feuillet was writing his best book, "Monsieur de 
Camors." And if the historical novel, as Dumas had con- 
ceived it, had declined to mere trash, those well-known 
literary partners, Erckmann-Chatrian, by transforming it 
and dealing exclusively with the period of the Revolution 
and the First Empire, were achieving repeated successes, their 
popularity being the greater among the Parisians on account 
of the Eepublican spirit of their writings. Then the foibles 
of the time were vividly illustrated by Taine's amusing 
" Graindorge," and Droz's " Monsieur, Madame, et B4b<," the 
last as strange a medley of immorality, wit, and true and 
honest feeling as ever issued from the press. But there was 
no redeeming feature in the nonsensical stories of semi- 
courtesans to which the brilliant Arsfene Houssaye had 
declined ; no shade of literary merit in the wild, unending 
romances with which Ponson du Terrail harrowed the feel- 
ings of every Parisian doorkeeper and apprentice. Perhaps 
the best serial writer of the time was Emile Gaboriau, for 
though his style was devoid of any literary quality, he was 
ingenious and plausible, and by the exercise of these gifts 
raised the detective novel of commerce from the depths in 
which he found it. 

But a delightful story-teller was coming to the front 
in the person of young Alphonse Daudet, who, since his 
arrival in Paris some nine years previously, had made his 
way siifficiently well to secure the performance of a one-act 

(March, 1866), and when Got, one of the performers, had occasion to exclaim, 
" England, the land of liberty ! " nearly the entire audience, composed of the 
intellectual leaders of Paris, rose and applauded tumultuously, in spite of 
the Emperor's presence. He was deeply impressed "by this demonstration. 


comedy, * L'CEiUet bknc," at the Com&iie Franaise, and of 
another, " La Derni&re Hole," at the Od^on. He had also 
contributed to "Le Petit Moniteur," a one-sou adjunct of 
the official journal in whose columns he signed either 
'* Baptiste " or " Jehan de I'lsle." Further, he had begun his 
familiar " Tartarin " under the title of " Le Don Quichotte 
proven^al " ; and he gave his charming " Lettres de mon 
Moulin" to " L'lllvdnement," at the very time when Zola 
was providing that journal with literary gossip. The young 
men met occasionally at the offices as well as at Villemes^ 
sant's country house at Seine-Port, and Zola was greatly 
struck by Daudet's handsomeness, " his abundant mane 
of hair, his silky, pointed beard, his large eyes, slender nose, 
and amorous mouth, the whole illumined by a ray of light, 
instinct with a soft voluptuousness, in such wise that his 
face beamed with a smile at once witty and sensual. Some- 
thing of the French gamin and something of the woman of 
the East, were blended in him." l 

But Daudet and Zola, afterwards such good friends, did 
not become intimate at this time. They merely elbowed 
one another on a few chance occasions, then followed the 
different roads they had chosen, roads which seemed likely 
to part them for ever, but which ended by bringing them as 
near one to the other as their natures allowed. 

In those days one of the institutions of literary and 
boulevardian Paris was the Librairie Nouvelle, which had 
been founded in 1853 or 1854, at the corner of the Boule- 
vard des Italiens and the Eue de Grammont, by a M. 
Bourdilliat, who subsequently sold the enterprise to Michel 
Lvy, the well-known publisher. This Librairie Nouvelle 

i Zola's " Les Romanciers Naturalises," Paris, Charpentier, 1881 et &?#. 


was both a publishing and a book-selling centre, and was 
much patronised by literary men, who made it a kind of 
lounge, meeting there of an afternoon, towards the absinthe 
hour, and again at night when the theatres closed. You 
might meet there such men as the two Dumas, the Gon- 
courts, Paul de Musset, Nestor Roqueplan, Gautier, About, 
Lambert-Thiboust, Jules Noriac, a brilliant chroniqueur, 
who never went to bed till sunrise, Xavier Aubryet, who 
combined literature with business, penning prose as full of 
sparkle as the champagne he sold, and Dr. Cerise, a fashion- 
able and eccentric medical man, who shrewdly " physicked " 
his lady patients with amusing books. Chatrian also came 
to the Librairie Nouvelle, with Offenbach, Cl&inger, Auber, 
Hal^vy, and Meilhac ; and among all these one might occa- 
sionally espy amiable diplomatists like the Chevalier Nigra 
and the Prince de Metternich, the husband of " the wittiest 
woman of the age." 

Now, when M. Albert Lacroix, the publisher of Zola's 
" Contes k Ninon " and " Confession de Claude," established 
the Librairie Internationale, in a very similar position, that 
is at the corner of the Boulevard Montmartre and the Rue 
Vivienne, he wished to make it a literary centre of the same 
description as the Librairie Nouvelle. And he largely suc- 
ceeded in his endeavour, attracting many patrons of the 
older establishment, and drawing numerous others around 
him. Indeed, the Librairie Internationale became almost a 
revolutionary centre ; for besides issuing many translations 
of foreign works, such as those of Grote, Buckle, Dean 
Merivale, Bancroft, Motley, Prescott, Gervinus, Duncker, 
and Herder, it published many of the writings of Hugo and 
Michelet, Eugene Pelletan and Edgar Quinet, Lamartine 


and Laveleye, Jules Simon, Ernest Hamel, and Proudlion, 
briefly of men whose principles were opposed to those 
of the Second Empire. 1 Occasionally M. Lacroix was led 
into hot water by his democratic tendencies ; as, for in- 
stance, when he incurred fine and imprisonment for issuing 
Proudhon's annotated edition of the Gospels, whereupon he 
became so alarmed that for some time he would not con- 
tinue the publication of Hamel's whitewashing of Bobes- 
pierre, of which he had already issued the first volume. 
In fiction he was often venturesome ; for he not only pro- 
duced " Manette Salomon " and " Madame G-ervaisais " for 
the Goncourts, but he issued " Le Maudit " and other no- 
torious volumes by the Abb * * *, really the Abb6 
Michon, an author whom Zola did not hesitate to " slate " 
in a provincial newspaper, though Lacroix was his own pub- 
lisher. "Disgust," he wrote, " rises to the lips when one 
reads these novels 2 floundering through filth, as vulgar in 
form as they are in thought, and pandering to the gross 
appetites of the multitude. One must assume that all this 
vileness and vulgarity is intentional on the author's part : 
he has written for a certain public and has served it the 
spicy and evil-smelling ragouts which he knows will please 


On the other hand, calling now and again at the Librairie 

1 The present writer can speak of these matters from personal knowledge ; 
he well knew M. Bourdilliat, the founder of the Librairie Nouvelle, and 
afterwards connected for many years with " Le Monde Illustre," which 
Frank Vizetelly helped to establish, and of which he was the first editor. 
As for the Librairie Internationale, it became the commercial agency of the 
" Illustrated London News," which Henry Vizetelly (the writer's father) repre- 
sented in Paris for several years. 

2 "Le Maudit" was followed by "La R&igieuse," "Le Je"suite," "Le 
Moine," etc,, all of these books having very large sales in Paris, 


Internationale, Zola there acquired no little information 
which, became useful for his contributions to "L'fiv&ie- 
inent," besides making the acquaintance of various literary 
men. But his old friends remained his favourite ones, and 
Cezanne, the painter, ranked foremost among them. He, 
C&anne, had become a fervent partisan of the new school of 
art, the school which Zola called that of the Open Air, and 
which led to Impressionism. Zola himself had strong artis- 
tic leanings and sympathies ; he spent hours in the studio 
of his friend, who introduced him to several other young 
painters, first Guillemet, then Edouard Bliard, Pissarro, 
Claude Monet, Degas, Renoir, Fantin-Latour, as well as 
Theodore Duret, art critic and subsequently historian 
with all whom he often discussed art at the famous Caf6 
G-uerbois at Batignolles. A little later, Guillemet and 
Duranty the novelist, 1 with whom Zola had kept up an 
intercourse since leaving Hachette's, introduced him to 
jEdouard Manet, the recognised leader of the new school ; 
and in all likelihood Zola, about the same time, came across 
the unlucky Leopold Tabar, a born colourist, whom Delacroix 
had favoured and helped. 

Tabar produced one striking and almost perfect painting, 
a " Saint Sebastian," but the rest of his life was consumed in 
ineffectual efforts. His sketches were admirable, but he 
could never finish a picture, and his failures were accentu- 
ated by his constant ambition to produce something huge, 
something colossal. Yet for years he was regarded as a 
coming great man. He had failed with his last picture, no 
doubt, but his next would be a masterpiece. He died at 
last in misery. And so much of his story corresponds with 
1 See mte, p. 66. 


that of Zola's novel, " I/GEuvre," that it seems certain the 
author must have met the unfortunate painter, and have 
blended his life with that of C&anne and others when 
preparing his study on the art-world of Paris. 1 

It was undoubtedly because Zola found himself thrown 
so much among the young painters of the new school that 
he asked Villemessant to let him write some critical arti- 
cles on the Salon of 1866, a request which the editor of 
" L'Evenement " seems to have granted readily enough. It 
is a curious circumstance that scores of prominent French 
authors, including famous poets, historians, novelists, and 
playwrights, have written on one or another Salon at some 
period of their careers. It used to be said in Paris, half in 
jest, half in earnest, that nobody could aspire to literary 
fame of any kind without having criticised at least one of 
the annual fine-art shows in the Champs Elys^es. In any 
case the admission of t( non-professionals/* so to say, among 
the critics, has been beneficial with respect both to the 
quality of art and the diffusion of artistic perception in 
France. It has more than once led painting out of the 
beaten track, checked the pontiffs of narrow formulas, en- 
couraged the young, helped on the new schools. At times 
the professional art critic has found his harsh dogmas and 
slavish traditions shattered by the common sense of his 
non-professional rival In England it happens far too often 
that the same men write on art in the same jargon and in 
the same newspapers and periodicals for years and years. 
In the long run, they fail to interest their readers : they 

1 The above passage corrects and supplements the particulars given by the 
writer in the preface to the English translation of "L'GEuvre," edited "by 
him. " His Masterpiece," by E. Zola, London, Chatto and Windus, 1902. 


are for ever repeating the same things. They cannot ap- 
preciate any novelty: their vision has become too preju- 
diced. And they exercise no healthy, educating, vivifying 
influence. It is no wonder, then, that the diffusion of artis- 
tic culture in England should proceed very slowly. 

Of course, even in France, the partisans of old and recog- 
nised schools do not immediately welcome a new one. For 
the most part they defend their acquired position with all 
the vigour they possess. And the battle may go on for some 
years before a new formula triumphs, soon to find, perhaps, yet 
another one preparing to challenge its hard-earned victory. 
When Zola, whose eyes treasured memories of the bright 
sunlight of Provence, who could recall the limpid atmos- 
phere of the hillsides that girdled Aix, entered the lists to 
do battle for the new realists of that time he encountered a 
terrific opposition. It had been arranged with Villemessant 
that he should write from sixteen to eighteen articles, pass- 
ing the entire Salon in review ; but he penned and pub- 
lished seven only the first two, which dealt with the 
exhibition jury and its system of admitting and excluding 
pictures, being written prior to May 1, the opening day. 
These articles, which accused the jury of manifest injustice 
in excluding Edouard Manet, and almost every artist who 
shared his tendencies, created quite an uproar in the Pari- 
sian art- world, which increased when a third article denounced 
the absolute mediocrity of some eighteen hundred and ninety 
of the two thousand pictures which had been " hung." A 
fourth article, in vindication of Manet and his methods, 
and a fifth praising Claude Monet's " Camille," and attack- 
ing Vollon, Ribot, Bonvin, and Roybet as spurious realists, 
brought matters to a climax. Villemessant and Zola him- 


self were assailed with letters of complaint, some hundreds 
of readers (inspired for the most part by the artistic enemies 
of the * Open-Air " school) demanding the critic's immediate 
dismissal or withdrawal. Zola's articles, it may be said, 
were signed with the mm de plume of " Claude/' in mem- 
ory, no doubt, of " Claude's Confession/* and in anticipation 
of the Claude Lantier " of " L'GEuvre," nevertheless, his 
identity having been divulged, he was freely abused by the 
critics of rival newspapers, and was even threatened with 
a duel. 

At that time, it should be mentioned, Edouard Manet, 
whose high talent needs no praise nowadays, was generally 
regarded as a mystifier, an impudent scamp who delighted 
to play jokes with the public, and it followed that this man 
Zola, who defended him, must be either another mystifier 
or else a mere ignorant jackass. Villemessant, however, 
less alarmed than amused by the storm which had been 
raised, was unwilling to dismiss him. In lieu thereof he de- 
cided to run a second series of articles on the Salon, one of 
the orthodox type, by Theodore Pelloquet, which it was 
thought would counterbalance the revolutionary utterances 
emanating from Zola. But this decision, although almost 
worthy of Solomon, did not satisfy the readers of " L'Ev6ne- 
ment." They would not have Zola as art critic at any price, 
and so he brought his campaign to an end after two more 
strongly written articles. In the first, truthfully enough, 
and in a regretful spirit, he pointed out the decline of 
Courbet, Millet, and particularly Theodore Bousseau, whose 
pictures that year were of an inferior quality, while, in the 
second, after attacking Fromentin for painting Oriental 
scenes with plenty of colour, but with an absolute lack of 


light, he turned the now-forgotten Nazon's sunsets into 
ridicule, and dismissed Gdrome and Dubuffe with a few 
stinging words* On the other hand, he praised Daubigny, 
Pissarro (then a newcomer among the realists), and Corot, 
observing of the last, however, that he would like his work 
far better if he would only slaughter the nymphs with 
which he peopled his woods, and set real peasants in their 
places. And he wound up as follows, in words which, ap- 
plied to much of his after-life, were almost prophetic: 

"In these articles I have defended M, Manet as, throughout 
my life, I shall always defend every frank personality that may 
be assailed. I shall always be on the side of the vanquished. 
There is always a contest between men of unconquerable tempera- 
ments and the herd. I am on the side of the temperaments, 
and I attack the herd. Thus my case is judged, and I am 
condemned. I have been guilty of such enormity as to fail to 
admire M. Dubuffe, after admiring Courbet the enormity of 
complying with inexorable logic. Such has been my guilt and 
simplicity that I have been unable to swallow without disgust the 
fadeurs of the period, and have demanded power and originality 
in artistic work. I have blasphemed in declaring that the history 
of art proves that only temperaments dominate the ages, and 
that the paintings we treasure are those which have been lived 
and felt. I have committed such horrible sacrilege as to speak 
with scant respect of the petty reputations of the day and to 
predict their approaching demise, their passage into eternal 
nothingness. I have behaved as a heretic in demolishing the 
paltry religions of coteries and firmly setting forth the great reli- 
gion of art, that which says to every painter : * Open your eyes, 
behold nature. Open your heart, behold life.' I have also dis- 
played crass ignorance because I have not shared the opinions of 
the patented critics, and have neglected to speak of the foreshort- 
ening of a torso, the modelling of a belly, draughtsmanship and 
colour, schools and precepts. I have behaved, too, like a ruffian 
in marching straight towards my goal without thinking of the 


poor devils whom I might crash on the way. I sought Truth 
and I acted so badly as to hurt people while trying to reach it. 
In a word, I have shown cruelty, foolishness, and ignorance, I 
have been guilty of sacrilege and heresy, because, weary of false- 
hood and mediocrity, I looked for men in a crowd of eunuchs. 
And that is why I am condemned." 

Such writing as this was bound to ruffle many dovecotes. 
There had previously been various efforts on behalf of the 
new school of painting, the complaints of injustice having 
led one year to the granting of a Salon des Bdfus&s, but 
never had any writer hit out so vigorously, with such dis- 
regard for the pretentious vanity of the artistic demigods of 
the hour. If, however, Zola was banished from " L'Ev&e- 
ment " as an art critic, he was not silenced, for he repub- 
lished his articles in pamphlet form, 1 with a dedicatory 
preface addressed to Paul C&anne, in which he said: "I 
have faith in the views I profess ; I know that in a few 
years everybody will hold me to be right. So I have no 
fear that they may be cast in my face hereafter." In this 
again he was fairly accurate : at least several of the views 
then held to be not merely revolutionary but ridiculous 
have become commonplaces of criticism. 

Though this campaign did not improve Zola's material 
position, it brought him into notoriety among the public, 
and gave him quite a position among the young men of 
the French art-world. At this time he still had his home 
in the Rue de Vaugirard, overlooking the Luxembourg gar- 
dens, but in the summer of 1866 he was able to spend 
several weeks at Bennecourt, a little village on the right 

1 " Mon Salon," Paris, Librairie Centrale, 1866, 12mo, 99 pages. The arti- 
cles are also given in the volume entitled "Mes Hainea" (Charpentier and 


bank of the Seine, near Bonni&res, and as the crow flies 
about half-way between Paris and Rouen. Here he was 
joined at intervals by some of his Provencal friends, Bailie, 
Cezanne, Marius Roux, and Numa Coste ; l and they roamed 
and boated, rested on the pleasant river islets and formed 
the grandest plans for the future, while Paris became all 
excitement about the war which had broken out between 
Prussia and Austria. The crash of Koenigsgratz echoed but 
faintly in that pleasant valley of the Seine, among those 
young men whose minds were intent on art and literature. 
But politically the year was an important one for France, for, 
from that time, the Franco-German War became inevitable. 
The Napoleonic prestige was departing. The recall of the 
expeditionary force from Mexico had become imperative. 
In vain did the unhappy Empress Charlotte hasten to 
Paris and beg and pray and weep ; Napoleon III, who had 
placed her husband Maximilian in his dangerous position, 
would give him no further help, and she, poor woman, was 
soon to lose her reason and sink into living death. 

The year which had opened so brightly for Zola was to 
end badly for him also. After shocking the readers of 
" L'Evdnement " as an art critic, he imagined he might be 
more successful with them as a story writer. So he pro- 
posed a serial to Villemessant, who after examining a syn- 
opsis of the suggested narrative, accepted the offer. The 
story which Zola then wrote was called "Le Voeu d'une 
Morte," but it met with no more success than the art 
criticisms, and after issuing the first part, Villemessant 

1 M. Coste, who is well known as a publiciste in France, should have 
been mentioned earlier in this work. Though not so intimate with Zola as 
Bailie and Ce"zanne, he knew him in his school days. He largely helped 
Paul Alexis in the preparation of the latter's biographical work on Zola. 



stopped the publication. The second part was never writ- 
ten ; yet the abortion for it was nothing else was 
issued in volume form, 1 and of recent years has even 
been translated into English, 2 and reviewed approvingly 
by English critics ! Zola himself always regarded it as the 
very worst of his productions. " "What a wretched thing, 
my Mend!" he remarked in a letter to M. George Char- 
pentier twenty years after this story's first appearance. 
"Nowadays young men of eighteen turn out work ten 
times superior in craftsmanship to what we produced when 
we were five and twenty." 

This second failure to catch the public fancy injured Zola 
considerably in the opinion of Villemessant, but the latter 
continued to take various articles from him, such as a 
series of literary character-sketches, entitled "Marbres et 
Plfttres/* in which figured such men as Flaubert, Janin, 
Taine, Paradol, and About. These articles were merely 
signed " Simplice," Zola's name having become odious to 
the readers of " L'Ev&iement," and portions were worked 
by the author into later studies on French literary men. 

About this time Villemessant found himself in serious 
difficulties with the authorities, through having sailed too 

near to politics in a journal only authorised for literature 


and news. " L J Evnement " was suppressed, but its editor 
turned * Le Figaro " into a daily organ, and Zola's services 
were transferred to the latter journal. He contributed to 
it a number of Parisian and other sketches, portions of 

1 "Le Yoeii (Tune Morte," Paris, Faure, 1866, 18mo. Reissued by Cnar- 
pentier, 1889 and 1891. 

2 " A Dead Woman's Wish," translated by Count C. S. de Soissons, Lon- 
don, 1902. 


which will be found under the title " Souvenirs," in a sec- 
ond volume of " Contes & Ninon," published in 1874. 

In the latter part of 1866 his pecuniary position was a 
declining one. As he wrote to his friend, Antony Vala- 
brfegue, he found himself in a period of transition. He had 
penned a pretty and pathetic nomelle, " Les Quatre Journ^es 
de Jean G-ourdon," for " L'lllustration," l but he was chiefly 
turning his thoughts to dramatic art, going, he said, as 
often as possible to the theatre with the idea, undoubt- 
edly, that, as he had failed to conquer Paris as an art critic 
and a novelist, he might yet do so as a playwright. The 
young man was certainly indomitable ; after each repulse he 
came up, smiling, to try the effect of another attack. Already 
in 1865, although his comedy, " La Laide," had been de- 
clined by the Odon Theatre, he had started on a three-act 
drama, called " La Madeleine," and this now being finished 
he sent it to Montigny, the director of the Gymnase Thea- 
tre, who replied, however, that the play was "impossible, 
mad, and would bring down the very chandeliers if an 
attempt were made to perform it." Harmant of the Vau- 
deville also declined " La Madeleine/ 5 but .on the ground that 
the piece was " too colourless," from which, as Alexis points 
out, one may surmise that he had not troubled to read it. 

After this experience Zola slipped his manuscript into a 
drawer and turned to other matters. In December, 1866, 
he is found informing Valabrkgue that he has received a 
very flattering invitation to the Scientific Congress of 
France, 2 and asking him, as he cannot attend personally, 

1 "I/Illustration," December 15, 1866, to February 16, 1867. The story 
is included in the " ISTouveaux Contes & Ninon/' 1874. 
a It must have been held, we think, at Marseilles or Aix. 


to read on his behalf a paper he has written for it This 
was a " definition of the novel," prepared, said Zola, accord- 
ing to the methods of Taine, 1 and it embodied at least the 
germs of the theories which he afterwards applied to his 
own work. When writing to Valabrkgue on the subject he 
was in a somewhat despondent mood, for his position on 
" Le Figaro " had now become very precarious. He wished 
to undertake some serious work, he said, but it was impera- 
tive that he should raise money, and he was " very unskil- 
ful in such matters." Indeed, in spite of every effort, he 
did not earn more than an average of three hundred francs 
a month. Nevertheless, he still received his friends every 
Thursday, when Pissarro, Bailie, Solari, and others went " to 
complain with him about the hardness of the times." 2 And 
he at least had a ray of comfort amid his difficulties, for he 
was now in love, was loved in return, and hoped to marry 
at the first favourable opportunity. The young person was 
tall, dark haired, very charming, very intelligent, with a 
gift, too, of that prudent thrift which makes so many 
Frenchwomen the most desirable of companions for the 
men who have to fight for position and fame. Her name 
was Alexandrine G-abrielle Mesley; before very long she 
became Madame Zola. 

In 1867 Zola put forth a large quantity of work. Early 
in the year he quitted "Le Figaro," and bade good-bye 
to the Quartier Latin, removing to Batignolles, quite at 
the other end of Paris ; his new address being 1, Rue 
Moncey, at the corner of the Avenue de Clichy. He was 

1 The snbstance of the paper was worked into the articles which Zola col- 
lected in the Yolume entitled " Le Eoman Experimental," Paris, 1880 et seq. 

2 "La Grande Revue," May, 1903, p. 254* 


now near Ms artistic friends of Montmartre, and complained 
to Valabrfegue of having only painters around him, without 
a single literary chum to join him in his battle. His asso- 
ciation with artists led, however, to the production of a 
fresh study on Manet, 1 and to another abortive effort to 
write a " Salon," this time in a newspaper called " La Situa- 
tion," which the blind, despoiled King of Hanover had 
started in Paris for the purpose of inciting the French 
against the Prussians. This journal was edited by Edouard 
Gr&der, a pulliciste and minor poet of the time, who was 
well disposed towards Zola ; but the latter's articles again 
called forth so many protests, that Gr^nier, fearing the 
newspaper would be wrecked when it was barely launched, 
cast his contributor overboard* 

Zola fortunately had other work in hand, having ar- 
ranged with the director of a Marseillese newspaper, "Le 
Messager de Provence," to supply him with a serial story, 
based (so Zola wrote to Valabrfegue), on certain criminal 
trials, respecting which he had received such an infinity of 
documents that he hardly knew how to reduce so much 
chaos to order and invest it with life. He hoped, how- 
ever, that the story, which he called "Les Mystferes de 
Marseille," might give him a reputation in the south of 
France, even if from a pecuniary standpoint it provided 
little beyond bread and cheese, the remuneration being fixed 
at no more than two sous a line. That, perhaps, was full 
value for such matter; at all events the London Sunday 
papers and halfpenny evening journals often pay no more, 

1 First issued in the " Revue du XIX" Siecle w ; afterwards in pamphlet 
form by Dentu, with, a portrait of Manet by Bracquemond, and an etching of 
Manet's " Olympia " by the painter himself. The text was reprinted in the 
volume, ** Mes Haines." 


if indeed as much, for the serials they issue nowadays, the 
majority of which are no whit better than was Zola's tale. 
It was not literature certainly ; hut it was clearly and con- 
cisely written, and generally good as narrative, in spite of 
some sentimental mawkishness and sensational absurdity. 
As often happens with hack work of this description the 
tale opens better than it ends. Long, indeed, before it 
was finished, the writer had grown heartily tired of it, as 
many of its readers must have perceived. At the same 
time it was not a work to be ashamed of, particularly in the 
case of an author fighting for his daily bread; and Zola, 
when at the height of his reputation, showed that he was 
not ashamed of it, for on his adversaries casting this for- 
gotten "pot boiler" in his face, he caused it to be re- 
printed, with a vigorous preface, in which he recounted 
under what circumstances the story had been written* 1 

The money paid for it had been very acceptable to him, 
for it had meant an income of two hundred francs a month 
for nine months in succession ; and it had enabled him to 
give time to some real literary work, the writing of his first 
notable novel, "Th&rfese Raquin." This he had begun in 
1866; the idea of it then being suggested to him by 
Adolphe Belot and Ernest Daudet's "V&ius de Gordes," 
in which a husband is killed by the wife's lover, who, with 

1 Besides appearing serially in " Le Messager de Provence," " Les Mys- 
teres de Marseille" was issued in parts (16mo) by Mengelle of Marseilles, 
1867-1868 j and in volume form (with preface) by Charpentier, Paris, 1884. 
Both " La Lanterne " and " Le Corsaire," of Paris, published the story serially 
after the Franco-German "War. In the latter journal it was called " Ua Duel 
Social/' by " Agrippa," under which title it was again issued in parts (12mo) 
for popular consumption. There is an English translation : "The Mysteries 
of Marseilles," translated by Edward Vizetelly. London, Hutchinson & Co., 
1895 et aeq. 


his mistress, is sent to the Assizes. Zola, for his part, pic- 
tured a similar crime in which the paramours escaped de- 
tection, hut suffered all the torment of remorse, and ended 
"by punishing each other. An article, a kind of nowvelle 
which he contributed to " Le Figaro " on the subject, led 
him to develop this theme in the form of a novel. In 
parts, "Th&r&se Kaquin," as the author afterwards re- 
marked, was neither more nor less than a study of the 
animality existing in human nature. It was, therefore, 
bound to be repulsive to many folk. But if one accept the 
subject, the book will be found to possess considerable liter- 
ary merit, a quality which cannot be claimed for Emile 
Gaboriau's " Crime d'Orcival," with which it has been com- 
pared by Mr. Andrew Lang. Gaboriau was a clever man 
in his way, but he wrote in commonplace language for the 
folk of little education who patronised the feuilletons of 
" Le Petit Journal." No French critic, except, perhaps, the 
ineffable M. de Brunetfere, who has declared the illiterate 
Ponson du Terrail to be infinitely superior to the Goncourts, 
would think of associating Gaboriau's name with that of 
Emile Zola. 

Under the title of "Un Mariage d'Amour," "TWrfese 
Kaquin " was published during the summer and autumn of 
1867, in Arskue Houssaye's review, " L' Artiste," which paid 
Zola the sum of six hundred francs 1 for the serial rights. 
There was some delay and difficulty in the matter. Hous- 
saye, who was bien en cour, as the French say, and desirous 
of doing nothing that might interfere with his admission to 

1 24 or about $120. Houssaye had previously paid Zola a third of that 
amount for his study on Manet (see ante, p. 101), and the money had reached 
the young author just in time to enable him. to save his furniture from being 
seized and sold by a creditor. 


the Tuileries, informed Zola that the Empress Eugenie 
read the review, and on that ground obtained his assent to 
the omission of certain strongly worded passages from the 
serial issue. But the author rebelled indignantly when he 
found that Houssaye, not content with this expurgation, 
had written a fine moral tag at the end of the last sheet 
of proofs. Zola would have none of it, and he was right ; 
yet for years the great quarrel between him and his critics 
arose less from the outspokenness with which he treated 
certain subjects than from his refusal to interlard his ref- 
erences to evil with pious ejaculations and moral precepts. 
But for all intelligent folk the statement of fact should 
carry its own moral; and books are usually written for 
intelligent folk, not for idiots. In the case in point the 
spectacle of Ars&ne Houssaye, a curled, dyed, perfumed 
ex-lady killer, tendering moral reflections to the author of 
"Th6r&se Raquin," was extremely amusing. Here was a 
man who for years had pandered to vice, adorned, beauti- 
fied, and worshipped it, not only in a score of novels, but 
also in numerous semi-historical sketches. For him it 
was all " roses and rapture," whereas under Zola's pen it 
appeared absolutely vile. In the end Houssaye had to 
give way, and the moral tag was deleted. 

Zola took his story to M. Albert Lacroix, who in the 
autumn of 1867 published it as a volume, Naturally it was 
attacked; and notably by Louis Ulbach, a writer with 
whom Zola frequently came in contact ; for TJlbach did a 
large amount of work for Lacroix, and was often to be met 
at the afternoon gatherings at the Librairie Internationale. 
It was he who had initiated the most popular book of 
that year : Lacroix's famous " Paris Guide by the principal 


authors and artists of France " ; but at the same time he 
did not neglect journalism, and just then he was one of the 
principal contributors to " Le Figaro," for which he wrote 
under the pseudonym of "Ferragus." In an article printed 
by that journal he frankly denounced " Th&rfese Kaquin " as 
" putrid literature," and Zola, with Villemessant's sanction, 
issued a slashing reply. This certainly attracted atten- 
tion to the book, with the result that a second edition was 
called for at the end of the year, which had not been a 
remunerative one for the bookselling world, for it was 
that of the great Exhibition when Paris, receiving visits 
from almost every raler and prince of Europe, gave nearly 
all its attention to sight-seeing and festivity. 1 

Zola had sent a copy of his book to Ste.-Beuve, for whom, 
as for Taine, he always professed considerable deference, 
though he reproached him somewhat sharply for having 
failed to understand Balzac, Flaubert, and others. Ste.- 
Beuve, having read " Th^r&se Kaquin," pronounced it to be 
a "remarkable and conscientious" work, but objected to 
certain of its features. Some years afterwards Zola had 
occasion to refer to this subject, and the remarks he then 
penned 2 may be quoted with the more advantage as they 
embody his own criticism of his book: 

" I had sent c Th&*ese Raquin ' to Ste.-Beuve, and he replied to 
me with a critical letter, in which I find that desire for average 

1 "Therese Kaquin," Paris, Librairie Internationale: 1st edition, 1867; 
2d, 1868 ; 3d, 1872 ; 4th and 5th, 1876 ; 6th, 7th, etc., Charpentier, 1880, 
1882, etc. Illustrated editions: Marpon, 8vo, 1883; Charpentier, 32mo, 
1884. Popular edition at 60 centimes: Marpon, 16mo, 1887. English 
translations : (1) anonymous, Yizetelly & Co., dr. 1886-1889 ; (2) by Edward 
Yizetelly, London, Grant Richards, 1902. 

* " Le Voltaire," August 10-14, 1880. See also " Documents Litteraires," 
by & Zola, Paris, Charpentier (and Fasquelle), 1881 et $eq. 


truth, of which I have just spoken. Nothing could be fairer than 
that criticism. For instance, he remarked of my description of 
the Passage du Pont Neuf [the chief scene of the novel] : < It is 
not accurate, it is a fantastic description, like Balzac's of the Eue 
Soli. The passage is bald, commonplace, ugly, and, in particular, 
narrow, but it has not the dense blackness, the shades a la Rem- 
"brcmdt which you impute to it. This also is a way of being unfaith- 
ful [to the truth]/ He was right ; only it must be admitted that 
places merely have such mournfulness or gaiety of aspect as we 
may attribute to them. One passes with a shudder before the 
house where a murder has just been committed, and which seemed 
quite commonplace only the previous day. None the less, Ste.- 
Beuve's criticism holds good. It is certain that things are carried 
to the point of nightmare in *Therese Eaquin/ and that the 
strict truth falls short of so many horrors. In making this ad- 
mission I wish to show that I perfectly understand and even ac- 
cept Ste.-Beuve's standpoint of average truth. He is also right 
when he expresses his astonishment that Thdrese and Laurent 
[the wife and lover] do not content their passion immediately 
after the murder of Camille [the husband] ; the case is open to 
argument, but in the ordinary course of things they would live in 
each other's arms before being maddened by remorse. It will be 
seen then that, in spite of my own books, I share this respect for 
logic and truth, and do not try to defend myself against criticism 
which seems quite just. Yes, certainly, it is a bad thing to for- 
sake the substantial ground of reality to plunge into exaggerations 
of draughtsmanship and colouring." 

About the time of the publication of " Th^rfese Eaquin " 
Zola at last obtained the coveted honours of the footlights. 
In conjunction with his friend Marius Eoux he wrote a 
drama based on his "Myst&res de Marseille," and the di- 
rector of the Marseillese Gymnase consented to stage it. 
It is possible that this arrangement was effected during a 
visit which the director made to Paris, for, according to 
some accounts, a trial performance of the play took place 


in the capital. 1 Zola and Roux, being anxious to witness 
its production at Marseilles, afterwards repaired thither, 
and superintended the last rehearsals; but their hopes 
were scarcely fulfilled, for although, as Alexis points out 
rather naively, the first performance 2 " proceeded fairly well, 
enlivened by only a little hissing," no more than two others 
were ever given. And while it is true that a " run " could 
hardly be expected in a provincial city, particularly in 
those days, three solitary performances, followed by no 
revival, could not be interpreted as signifying success. 

Perhaps it was the failure of this effort that caused Zola 
to abandon for some years all hope of making his way as a 
dramatic author. Judging by the comparative success of 
"Th6rkse Kaquin," novel writing seemed the safer course 
for him. Accordingly, he transformed his rejected play, 
"La Madeleine," into a novel, which he entitled "La 
Honte," and offered as a serial to a certain M. Bauer, who 
had established a new " Ev&iement." Bauer accepted it, 
but its minute descriptions of the working of sensual 
passion in a woman shocked his readers, and the publica- 
tion ceased abruptly. On the whole, this story, written in 
a large degree on the same lines as " Thdr&se Baquin," was 
nofc a good piece of work. When Lacroix published it, how- 
ever, in volume form, under the title of " Madeleine F^rat," 
it soon went into a second edition. 3 

This was the chief literary work accomplished by Zola 

1 Theltre Beamnarchais, October 17, 1867. 

2 October 27, 1867. 

8 ** Madeleine Frat," Paris, Librairie Internationale, 1st and 2d editions, 
1868 ; 3d, Marpon and Flammarion, 1878 ; 4th, Charpentier, 1880 ; new edi- 
tion, Charpentier, 1892, etc. Popular edition at 60 centimes, Marpon, 1891, 
English translation : Yizetelly & Co., dr. 1888. 


in 1868, when lie also published a variety of articles in 
different Paris newspapers. And as his books were now 
selling fairly well, he began to think of giving some ful- 
filment to an old and once vague project, to which the 
example of Balzac's works had at last imparted shape. 
Writing in May, 1867, to his friend Valabrfegue, he had 
then said : " By the way, have you read all Balzac ? What 
a man he was I I am reperusing him at this moment. To 
my mind, Victor Hugo and the others dwindle away beside 
him, I am thinking of a book on Balzac, a great study, 
a kind of real romance/* 

That book was never written, but the perusal of "La 
Com^die Humaine " and its haunting influence at least 
largely inspired " Les Rougon-Macquart." 



The Goncourts, Zola, and his proposed "family history" Origin of this 
idea Degeneration and heredity Zola's agreement with M. Lacroix - 
He hegins **La Fortune des Rougon" His intercourse with Meurice, 
Coppee, etc. His work on "Le Kappel," "La Tribune," "Le Gaulois" 
Sincerity of his democratic views Gonconrt's allegation that he would 
have sold his pen to the Empire Some venal French journalists Zola's 
marriage and opinion of the married state His home in the Rue de 
La Condamine ** Le Siecle" and "La Fortune des Rougon" "La 
CureV' begun Zola takes his ailing wife to Provence Outbreak of 
war with Germany Zola and military service He conducts a news- 
paper at Marseilles, becomes Secretary to Glais-Bizoin at Bordeaux, and 
is offered a Sub- Prefecture His chances as a state functionary He 
reverts to journalism and literature His work on "La Cloche" and 
" Le Corsaire " Publication of " La Fortune des Rougon " The public 
prosecutor and " La Curee" Its issue in book form Failure of Zola's 
publisher, Lacroix The novelist's dire distress The wool of his mat- 
tresses sold to buy bread He is recommended by Theophile Gautier to 
M. Oharpentier His "slop" clothes and his new publishing contract 
M. Charpentier's generous honesty How Zola passed from penury to 

IT lias been mentioned already that when the Goncourts' 
novel, " G-erminie Laeerteux," was published in 1865, some 
little correspondence took place between Zola and the 
authors, they being really grateful to him for the favour- 
able review of their work which he had contributed to " Le 
Salut Public," of Lyons. They told him that he alone had 
understood the book, that his frankness consoled them for 
much of the literary hypocrisy of the times, and that they 
admired his courage in daring to confess his likings. 1 Sub- 
sequently, wishing to become personally acquainted with 

1 "Lettres de Jules de Goncourt," etc., Paris, 1885, p. 219. (Letter dated 
February 27, 1865.) 


Zola, they called on him, but found him absent. In Feb- 
ruary, 1868, however, still remembering Ms article on their 
book, they wrote to him in praise of " Th&r&se Raqtdn," in 
which they detected the hand of an artist, one who had 
probed human truth and crime to the core. 1 

From Alexis's account it has been inferred by several 
writers that Zola and the G-oncourts became intimate in 
1865 ; but the latter's " Journal " shows, peremptorily, that 
they did not actually meet till December 14, 18 68, 2 when 
Zola lunched with the brothers at their house on the Boule- 
vard Montmorency, at Auteuil. This time the approaches 
probably came from Zola. 8 The Goncourts were preparing 
their novel " Madame Gervaisais," and he, with the idea of 
writing an anticipatory article on it, seems to have applied 
for information, whereupon he was invited to the Goncourts' 
house. They had pictured him as somewhat of a Norma* 
lien, a pedagogue, and they found him sickly, nervous, 
anxious, deep, intricate, in fact almost a riddle ! He told 
them of the difficulties of his position, admitted that his 
novel, "Madeleine F&rat," ran off the rails and ought to 
have been limited to three characters ; complained of having 
to conform to idiotic editorial opinions in some articles he 
was then contributing to " La Tribune," a weekly opposition 
journal, and expressed a keen desire to find a publisher who, 
over a term of six years, would pay him a sum of thirty 
thousand francs for eight novels, in which the history of a 
family would be recounted. 4 This history, of course, was 

1 "Lettres de Jules de Goncourt," p. 273 (February 5, 1868). 

2 "Journal des Goncourt," Paris, 1888, 1* Serie, Vol. III. 

* "Lettres de Jules de Goncourt." See those of January 10, January 17, 
and April 10, 1869. 

* "Journal des Goncourt," YoL III, p. 245 et seq. 

Photo by C. Martinet 

Boulevard Zola, Aixin- Provence 

Photo by C. Martinet 

On the Banks ot the Arc, near Aix 


that of the Rougon-Macquarts, which finally expanded into 
a series of twenty volumes. 

At a later date, on August 27, 1870, while lunching with 
Edmond de Goncourt, 1 Jules had died in the previous 
June Zola reverted to this subject and expressed his con- 
viction that, after all which had been accomplished by others, 
such as by Flaubert in " Madame Bovary," after all the an- 
alysis of petty shades of feeling, all the minute jewelry work, 
so to say, which had been done in literature, there was no 
longer any call for the younger men to imagine and build up 
any one or two characters ; they could only appeal to the 
public by the power and the breadth of their creations, 
briefly, they must work on a large scale. And Zola al- 
lowed it to be inferred that it was this view which had 
prompted his scheme of a family history. 

But he had not been influenced solely by that considera- 
tion. The original germ of his idea lay far back, in that 
projected poetic trilogy, "Gen&se," which was to have re- 
counted the advent, development, and destiny of mankind. 
That vague scheme, suggested by the pages of Lucretius, had 
been resuscitated, transformed, modernised, so to say, by the 
repeated perusal of Balzac's "Com^die Humaine"; and there 
is little doubt that, from the practical standpoint of personal 
advantage, Zola was also influenced by the success of many 
connected series of books. It is a question whether Bal- 
zac's novels were widely read at that moment. Cheap, badly 
printed on the vilest paper, they were to be seen in almost 
every bookseller's shop, but their covers, soiled and fading, 
often spoke of long continuance in the dealers' custody ; 
whereas there could be no doubt of the ready sale, the inx- 

* "Journal des Goncourt," Vol. IV, p. 15. 


mense vogue, of Erckmann-Chatrian's numerous productions. 
Those so-called "Romans Nationaux" hung well together, 
thanks to a variety of connecting links ; and in their pro- 
digious circulation Zola constantly had hefore his eyes an 
example of the great success which might attend a series of 
novels leading skilfully one from the other. 

But he did not propose to write about the past, even the 
near past, such as the First Republic and the First Empire, 
which had supplied Erckmann-Chatrian with their themes ; 
his aim was to describe contemporary manners, those of the 
then-existing Second Empire. That regime had begun in 
blood, and had passed through some remarkable phases, 
which would provide him with suitable backgrounds for 
several stories. And it followed purely and simply as a 
matter of course that the series he contemplated must be 
largely a record of social and natural degeneration. The de- 
generacy of the times was a stock subject, a commonplace 
of contemporary literature. The playwrights Ponsard, 
Augier, Feuillet, Barri&re, Sardou, Dumas fils, and others, had 
harped upon it for years. It had figured in numerous 
novels ; it had formed the subject of many volumes of so- 
called " serious " literature ; it had appeared in the pages of 
Tocqueville, it had found an echo amid even the hopefulness 
of Pr^vost-Paradol's " France Nouvelle " ; it was a theme 
repeatedly selected by those newspapers which did not 
pander to the supporters of the demi-monde. No doubt, 
there has never been a time, since men began to write, when 
some of them have not pictured the world and the human 
species as degenerate. The cry, ! tempora, ! mores, has 
re-echoed through all the centuries indiscriminately. But 
under a rigime so base and corrupt as the Second French 


Empire it was justifiable. There could then be no doubt 
that degeneracy was indeed attacking the nation. 

What Zola himself thought on the subject was indicated 
by him with vigorous indignation in a newspaper article 
apropos of the licentious operettas of the time. Protesting 
against all the clappers who went into ecstasies when a so- 
called actress emphasised " some obscene expression by her 
contortions," he exclaimed : *' Ah, mis^re ! on the day when 
the sublime idea occurs to some woman to play the part of a 
, au naturel, on the stage, Paris will fall ill with en- 
thusiasm. But what else can you expect ? We have grown 
up amid shame ; we are the bastard progeny of an accursed 
age. As yet we have only reached jerking of the hips, ex- 
hibition of the bosom ; but the slope is fatal, and we shall 
roll down it to the very gutter unless we promptly draw 
ourselves erect and become free men." * 

But another point has to be considered. At the very out- 
set of Zola's scheme the predisposition towards certain 
branches of science which he had shown in his youth 
revived. The question of hereditary influence had already 
attracted his attention while he was writing "Madeleine 
3?6rat," and it assumed larger proportions and greater complex- 
ity when he began to think of his projected family history. 
The members of the family in question (like all others) 
would be affected not merely by their actual environment 
but also by psychological conditions coming from their 
progenitors. Zola felt that he must study the question 
carefully, and for some months his spare time was spent at 
the Bibliothfeque Imperiale (now Rationale) where he read 
every book he could discover treating of hereditary influence. 

* "La Tribune," October, 1869. 


As lie himself subsequently stated, among the works which 
most impressed him, there was particularly one by a now 
almost forgotten scientist, Dr. Prosper Lucas, 1 the brother 
of Charles Lucas, the eminent pioneer in criminology. 

At the end of 1868 Zola drew up a scheme of his proposed 
"family history/ 1 even then preparing the original genea- 
logical tree of the Eougon-Macquarts such as he conceived 
it. 2 He set down also the terms on which he would write 
the series, which at this date he proposed to limit to twelve 
volumes. And he carried everything to his publisher, M. 
Lacroix, who, while regarding the offer favourably, would 
not bind himself at the outset for more than the first four 
volumes. An agreement in that sense was signed in the 
spring of 1869 ; it being stipulated that Zola was to write 
two volumes each year and to receive five hundred francs a 
month from Lacroix, not in actual payment for his work but 
as an advance. The stories were to be sold in the first in- 
stance to newspapers for serial issue, and with the proceeds 
of those sales the publisher was to be refunded his advances, 
wholly or in part. On the subsequent publication in book 
form (each volume being priced at three francs 3 ) the author 
was to receive a royalty of forty centimes (or about thirteen 
per cent) on every copy sold. But if the publisher's ad- 
vances had not been fully repaid with the newspaper money 

* *' Traite philosophique et physiologique de THdredite N*aturelle dans les 
tatsde sante* et de maladie du Systeme ETerveux," Paris, 1847-1850, 2 vols. 


a This tree was subsequently inserted at the "beginning of "Une Page 
d'Amour," 1878 et seg. The leaves bear the names of twenty-six characters, 
But the series expanded, and with its last volume, "Le Docteur Pascal,'* 
1893, a new genealogical tree was issued giving six more names. 

9 That was then the usual price of a French novel. The rise to 3 franca 
50 centimes took place after the War of 1870. 


he was to reimburse himself out of the book royalties as 
they accrued. 

So far, the arrangement, though somewhat unusual, would 
not seem to have been unduly intricate, but it was rendered 
so by the further stipulation that every month, on receiving 
his advance of five hundred francs, Zola should hand Lacroix 
a promissory note for that amount, at three months' date, 
those notes being renewable until each volume was issued, 
when a proper account was to be drawn up. But with this 
system confusion set in, particularly as after a long delay 
in the serial issue of the first volume the War of 1870 
supervened, in consequence of which M. Lacroix found 
himself in serious financial difficulties. 

To Zola, at the outset, everything seemed clear sail- 
ing. He had ensured himself an annual income of six 
thousand francs l for at least two years, and he had only 
to set to work. Thus, in May, 1869, he started on his 
first volume, "La Fortune des Rougon," in which he pic- 
tured the origin of the family whose history he proposed 
to recount, and its first ignoble rise to position with the 
help of Louis Napoleon's coup d'etat. The scene of the 
narrative was laid at Aix, which had so long been Zola's 
home and which, for his literary purposes, he now called 
Plassans. 2 

His book was written in a Republican spirit with con- 
siderable boldness for those Imperial times. And in this 
connection, by way both of refuting a suggestion made by 
Edmond de Goncourt, that Zola, in his penury, would will- 
ingly have sold himself to the Empire, had it chosen to buy 
him, and of showing the young author's participation in the 

l 240, about $1,200. 3 See <mtc, p, 30. 


journalism of the period, it is as well that one should 
momentarily retrace one's steps. 

Already in 1867, through M. Albert Lacroix, his publisher, 
Zola had become acquainted with M. Paul Menrice, an able 
novelist and playwright, best known, however, by his con- 
nection with Victor Hugo. The great man had a horror of 
proof -correcting, and even in his lifetime much of his writ- 
ing was passed for the press and, one may add, revised by 
M. Meurice, to whom, since then, has fallen the task of 
editing both the poet's correspondence and the editions 
definitives of his books. In the last years of the third 
Napoleon's reign Hugo lived at Brussels, M. Meurice acting 
in many matters as his Parisian representative. 1 Madame 
Meuriee's drawing-room was thrown open to all the Hugo- 
litres of the time ; and Zola often attended her receptions, 
accompanied on some occasions by Duranty, on others by 
Manet He then met several of the so-called Parnassian 
poets, 2 who, though their methods were often very different 
from those of the master, professed great admiration for him. 
Such were Sully Prudhomme and Francois Copp^e, both of 
whom Zola first met in Madame Meurice's drawing-room. 
With M. Coppfe, his relations became and remained intimate 
until the great Dreyfus case, when the so-called "poet of 
the humble," suffering from a serious chronic disorder, and 
fearful of losing the services of an expert medical attendant 
devoted to the priestly cause, resolved to save both soul 
and body by joining the great crusade against the Jews. 

1 Notably with regard to the publication of that extraordinary romance, 
"L'Homme c[ui Rit," for which. Lacroix paid much more than its value. 

2 The Parnassians, who were brought together by Xavier de Ricard, dated 
from about 1860. The first series of "Le Parnasse contemporain " was issued 
by Lenaerre in 1866. 


Towards the close of 1868 politics passed before litera- 
ture in Madame Meurice's salon, for the tide of opposition 
to the Empire was then rising rapidly. In May, that year, 
Henri Rochefort, thanks to a new press law and the help 
of Villemessant, had started his famous periodical, " La 
Lanterne"; and in all directions the liberal newspapers 
had become more and more outspoken, in spite of the many 
sentences to fine and imprisonment which were heaped on 
their managers, writers, and printers. The grant of the 
right of public meeting added to the general unrest, and 
when 1869 arrived the excitement of the Parisians be- 
came the greater as general elections were appointed to 
take place in May. "La Lanterne" having been crushed 
Rochefort seeking an asylum in Belgium where Hugo 
gave him hospitality many suggestions of starting an- 
other opposition journal were made in Madame Meurice's 
salon. A certain Barbieux, a victim of the Coup d?li!tat, 
carried the idea to Hugo at Brussels, and no satisfac- 
tory title having been as yet suggested, the poet under- 
took to provide one. The next morning, says Rochefort 
in his autobiography, 1 he proposed "Le Rappel" a speak- 
ing title for those times, signifying a call to arms, the 
mustering of all who wished to shake off the rule of 
Napoleon IIL 

From the first gossip at Madame Meurice's it had been 
arranged that Zola should belong to the staff of the pro- 
posed journal, the principal contributors to which were 
Charles and FranQois Hugo, the great man's sons; Louis 
Blanc the historian ; Auguste Vacquerie, perhaps the ablest 

1 "The Adventures of my Life," "by Henri Kochefort, English edition, 
London, 1896, Vol. I, p. 206. 


and most fervent of all the Hugol&tres ; 1 Paul Meurice, of 
whom one has already spoken; Rochefort, who reprinted 
portions of his " Lanternes " in " Le Eappel " ; Edouard 
Lockroy, who subsequently married Charles Hugo's widow, 
and since those days has been a member of more than 
one Republican Chamber and Ministry ; Laferrikre, who 
tinder the Eepublic became President of the Council of 
State, and later Governor-general of Algeria; and finally 

It has already been shown that the latter was by no 
means a frantic partisan of Victor Hugo; but he was 
drawn towards the great man's band by circumstances, by 
an admiration for the poet, which if tempered by his 
critical sense was within its limits perfectly sincere, and 
also by a genuine sympathy with the object which the 
projected newspaper was to further. In one of his earliest 
contributions to the press, one dealing with Napoleon Ill's 
" Life of Csasar," he had shown that he in no wise admired 
the Man of Destiny. Other early writings, even passages 
of "Les Contes k Ninon," breathed a spirit incompatible 
with Bonapartist imperialism. Further, life in the Quartier 
Latin had helped to republicanise Zola, and when he took 
to journalism for a livelihood, it was to the popular opposi- 
tion press that he naturally turned. Even if " L'Evnement " 
and "Le Figaro" were originally non-political, their ten- 
dencies at any rate were against the Empire, Again, " Le 
Salut Public," of Lyons, was not a government journal, nor 
was " Le Gaulois," to which Zola contributed several arti- 
cles on social subjects, literature, and literary men soon 

1 His brother, Charles Vacquerie, after marrying the poet's daughter, 
Lfopoldine Hugo, had been drowned with her off Villequier, in 1843. 


after its establishment by Edmond Tarb& Then, too, " La 
Tribune," a weekly journal for which he wrote regularly, 
was certainly most democratic, if rather eccentric in some 
of its views. 1 

Nevertheless, a few years after the invasion and revolu- 
tion, Edmond de Goncourt, lunching one day with Princess 
Mathilde Bonaparte, did not hesitate to declare that the 
Empire might have secured Zola's services had it chosen. 
"He was penniless, he had a mother and a wife to keep, 
At the outset he had no public opinions. You could have 
had htm on your side like many others, had you chosen. 
He could only find democratic newspapers to take his copy. 
Living among all those folk, he became a democrat. It 
was quite natural." And Goncourt added that the Princess 
Mathilde had disarmed many hatreds and angers by her 
friendship, graciousness, and attentions, winning over such 
men as himself, his brother, .and Flaubert to the Empire 
which, otherwise, they also would have attacked. 2 

Those allegations, so far as they concern Zola, cannot be 
left unanswered. The Goncourts' "Journal" shows that 
the brothers, with all their gifts, were not men of the 
highest principles ; and it is evident that they often judged 
others by their own standard. As a matter of fact there is 
no shred of evidence that Zola would ever have sold him- 
self to the Empire. At the time of that regime, as subse- 

1 This was perhaps due to the circumstance that Glais-Bizoin, the enf<mt 
terrible of the Republican opposition in the Corps L^gislatif, played the chief 
part in the directorship of the paper, the latter^ better features being im- 
parted to it by his co-editor, the scholarly Eugene Pelletan. It was run 
chiefly in view of the 1869 elections and Zola subsequently remarked that 
excepting himself and the office boy every member of its staff was a parlia- 
mentary candidate. 

2 "Journal des Goncourt," VoL V, p. 150 (November 13, 1874). 


quently, his chief interest lay in literature and art, politics 
came afterwards; hut so far as he concerned himself in 
them hiB opinions were essentially democratic. In all re- 
spects Edmond de Goncourt's assertions were erroneous. 
If Zola had cared to sell his pen for political purposes he 
might have done so with the greatest ease. In 1868-1869, 
when he first began to give real attention to politics, the 
authorities were only too anxious to secure clever men 
who might reply to Rochefort and all the other opposition 
writers. Large sums were spent in bribing journalists. 
Yillemessant was paid ten thousand pounds to shake off 
Rochefort and support the authorities; Emile de Girardin 
was bought with the promise of a senatorship; Clement 
Duvernois was secured by being placed at the head of a 
new journal, "Le Peuple Frangais," on which the Privy- 
purse, in little more than one year, expended over fifty- 
six thousand pounds. 1 More money was spent on other 
journals, new ones like " L'Etendard," for which Auguste 
Vitu (one of the original characters of Murge/s "Vie de 
Bohfeme") was engaged; "Le Public," whose editor, Ernest 
Drdolle, was financed; and " L'Epoque," whose nominal 
proprietor was Dusautoy, the Emperor's tailor. For these 
and other newspapers contributors were required, and a 
good many clever but needy men of lax principles pre- 
sented themselves. The less brazen among them found 
their excuse in the pretended transformation of the regime ; 

they would never have served the "personal Empire" of 

course not! but the "liberal Empire" commanded their 

1 "Papiers et Correspondance de ]& Famille Imp&iale," Paris, Impri- 
merie Rationale, 1870. 


It follows that Edmond de Goncourt's estimate of Zola's 
democratic tendencies was arrant nonsense. Paris had been 
the young writer's home for several years now ; he knew 
what to think of the Empire, and was against, not with, it. 
However, he placed literature before politics, particularly as 
all he saw of the political cuisine of the times inclined him 
to regard many professional politicians with contempt. 
And his Republicanism was not so intense as to restrict 
him exclusively to Republican society* He admired the 
Goncourts and Flaubert to whom the former introduced 
him in 1869 as literary masters, and associated with 
them freely. Again, he saw no reason why he should not 
contribute stories to " L* Artiste " and " L'lllustration," even 
if their editors did not think politically as he did. With 
respect to "Le Rappel," though his contributions were at 
times political they more frequently dealt with literary 
subjects ; and the independence of his character was illus- 
trated by the boldness with which he praised Balzac in a 
journal patronised and in some degree financed by Victor 
Hugo, who held that Balzac was fated to early and absolute 
oblivion, because he could not even write French. The 
result of Zola's championship of Balzac in "Le Rappel" 
was the severance of his connection with that journal. 
This, however, did not take place till the last months of 
the Empire, when much of the paper's purpose was already 

In the summer of 1869, after signing his contract with 
Lacroix for the first Rougon-Macquart volumes, Zola felt 
that he might at last venture to marry, and in July Made* 
moiselle Mesley, to whom reference has been made already, 1 

1 See ante, p. 100. 


became his wife. As he afterwards explained, apart from 
the question of love, he held " the married state to be an 
indispensable condition for the accomplishment of all good 
and substantial work. The theory which pictured woman 
as a destructive creature, one who killed an artist, pounded 
his heart, and fed upon his brain was a romantic idea 
which facts controverted. For his own part, he needed an 
affection that would guarantee him tranquillity, a loving 
home, where he might shut himself up, so as to devote his 
life to the great series of books which he dreamt of. 
Everything, said he, depended upon a man's choice, and he 
believed he had found what he needed, an orphan, the 
daughter of tradespeople, without a penny, but handsome 
and intelligent." 1 

At this time, after removing from the corner of the 
Avenue de Clichy and the Rue Moncey to 23, Rue Truffaut, 
Zola had secured a little house or " pavilion " in the Rue de 
La Condamine, likewise at Batignolles, a house reached 
by crossing the courtyards of a larger building divided into 
flats and facing the street. By opening an iron gate one 
gained admittance to a small garden with a tiny lawn, over 
which a large plum-tree cast its shade, while directly in 
front of the pavilion was an arbour of Virginia creeper. 
Three rooms on the ground floor, and three on the first, 
" all like little drawers with partitions as flimsy as paper," 
such was the accommodation which the house offered ; and 
the dining-room was so small that when a little later Zola 
purchased a piano, the necessary space for it could only be 
obtained by transforming a kind of china cupboard into an 
alcove. 2 The inmates of this band-box were four in num- 

i "L'CEime," p. 208. a "I/GEuvre," p. 251. Alexis, p. 91. 


her : Zola, his young wife, his aged mother, now in very 
indifferent health, and his dog, a cross between a sheep-dog 
and a Newfoundland/ in a word the faithful Mathieu, of 
whose last years and death the novelist afterwards wrote 
so pathetically in " La Joie de Vivre." A servant-woman, 
who slept out, attended to the harder and dirtier house- 
work ; Madame Zola the younger took charge of most of 
the cooking ; and it was amid these conditions, in this little 
pavilion behind No. 14, Kue de La Gondamine, that the 
young author, who had hut lately completed his twenty- 
ninth year, resolutely set to work upon one of the greatest 
literary efforts ever made, one which not only embraced a 
most painstaking study of a period and its people, but 
imported into fiction, for the first time in its history, virtu- 
ally every application of the scientific theory of atavism. 

Thus Zola gave effect to his old desire to try to reconcile 
science and poetry which he had only recently enun- 
ciated once more in an article in "La Tribune." And in 
the prosecution of this self-chosen task over a long term of 
years, amid many difficulties, the greatest ridicule, the most 
impudent misrepresentation, the most savage abuse that 
every white-livered critic could think of, he did not once 
swerve from the view he expressed in " Le Gaulois " about 
the time "when he was signing his contract with Lacroix : 
"If I kept a school of morals I would hasten to place 
'Madame Bovary' or 'Q-ermirrie Lacerteux' in ray pupils 1 
hands, convinced as I am that only truth can instruct and 
fortify generous souls." l 

That view remained Zola's till his last hour. 

Early in the summer of 1869 he handed the opening 
1 " Le Gaulofs," Maxell 26, 1869. 


chapters of his first volume, " La Fortune des Rougon," to 
the acting-editor of " Le Si&cle," with which journal he had 
negotiated its serial issue. * Le Sfecle " then held in Paris 
a position similar to that of " The Morning Advertiser " in 
London. That is to say, it was largely the organ of the 
licensed victuallers, without, however, belonging to them. 
Even as in England, there is sometimes said to be a Beer 
and Bible alliance between the brewers and the clergy, so 
"Le Si&cle" represented a kind of Wine and Democracy 
compact. It was found in every Parisian wine shop, and 
during the earlier years of the Empire it had been the only 
journal of democratic tendencies which the authorities tol- 
erated. L6onor Havin, who became an Opposition deputy 
in the Corps Lgislatif, conducted the paper with great 
ability for several years, but he was dead when Zola nego- 
tiated the publication of his novel, and "Le Si&cle" had 
fallen into the hands of that journalistic abomination, an 
" editorial board." Zola had a friend at court in the person 
of M. Castagnary, who many years previously had done for 
Courbet what Zola, comparatively recently, had done for 
Manet. But Castagnary, while exercising considerable in- 
fluence, helping to impart a more resolute Republican tone 
to the paper, was not all powerful in the board room ; and 
not only had Zola already made a good many enemies in 
his own profession, but a recollection of the opposition 
which his earlier novels had encountered from the readers 
of other newspapers, so influenced "Le SifecleV editorial 
committee that it again and again postponed the publication 
of " La Fortune des Rougon." 

Thus Zola found himself in an unpleasant position at the 
very moment when he hoped to live in a little quietude and 


comfort. M. Lacroiz, for some months, made the stipu- 
lated advances without raising any difficulty, but when 
1870 arrived the position became more and more un- 
certain. Zola was reduced to such a state of anxiety that 
for weeks at a time he could hardly write, and it was 
only the encouragement he received from his brave young 
wife that gave him enough energy to persevere. 

Thanks to newspaper work, he earned just sufficient 
money to live on meagrely from day to day and keep the 
home together ; and at last, the publication of " La Fortune 
des Rougon " being still deferred, he turned from that work, 
which he had not quite completed, in order to begin another. 
This was " La Cur4e," into which some of his critics have 
read a great many things which he never put in it. Politi- 
cally and financially, it was simply the story of the Hauss- 
manisation of Paris, while morally its central intrigue was 
neither more nor less than an adaptation of the ancient 
legend of Phaedra to the corrupt times of the Empire. Of 
this second book Zola had just written the first chapter, at 
the end of May, 1870, when "Le Sifecle" suddenly decided 
to publish his earlier work. So once again the young author 
reverted to " La Fortune des Rougon," correcting the proofs 
of the commencement and penning the conclusion. 

Things looked brighter now, but after that year of keen 
anxiety Madame Zola was in a very ailing state and needed 
change and rest. Zola himself felt a longing to get away 
from Paris for a time, and so, after making various pecu- 
niary arrangements with M. Lacroix and "Le Si^cle," he 
started with his wife and mother for Provence. Then, all 
at once, came the thunderclap : Napoleon III declared war 
against Prussia, France was invaded ; her armies were sur- 


prised at Wissemburg, overthrown at Woerth, thrust back 
from Borny and Gravelotte under Metz, routed at Beau- 
mont, surrounded and captured at Sedan. The Empire 
fell, and a fortnight later the Germans invested Paris. 
Zola, now in his thirty-first year, was not called upon to 
undertake any military duties like others of that age, for, 
being the only son of a widow, the law exempted him from 
service. It is true, no doubt, that other widows' sons at 
that time occasionally joined the colours as volunteers, in 
spite of the legal exemption. And on that account, at a 
subsequent period, directly after the publication of "La 
Db&cle," Zola's enemies made much of the fact that he had 
not done likewise. 

But proper allowance should be made for Ms circum- 
stances at the time. The investment of Paris had cut 
him off from his usual sources of income ; he found him- 
self virtually adrift, at Marseilles, with his sick wife and his 
old mother, who had become more or less infirm. They had 
little or no money, there was no relative with whom they 
might seek a refuge, and if Zola, in a fine spirit of patriot- 
ism, had gone to join the army, the two women would have 
become dependent on the charity of the public. At first 
Zola was at a loss what to do. But meeting M. Arnaud, 
who had published his "Myst&res de Marseilles'* in the 
" Messager de Provence," he prevailed on him to run a popu- 
lar halfpenny war journal, which was called " La Marseil- 
laise." Zola's friend, Marius Roux, who was then also in 
the city, joined him in the venture, and between them they 
wrote the whole paper, which at the outset seemed likely 
to prove successful, its sales amounting to ten and fifteen 
thousand copies ; but typographical and other difficulties 


arose, and at last, instead of money being earned, it was 

In December (1870) Zola's position at Marseilles being 
once more little short of desperate, he went to Bordeaux 
to seek some work there, that city having lately become 
the capital of Prance by the removal of the National 
Defence Delegation from Tours. At Bordeaux he found 
Glais-Bizoin, under whom he had formerly contributed to 
" La Tribune," and Glais-Bizoin, who was now a member of 
the Government, a colleague of Gambetta, Cr^mieux, and 
Fourichon, made him his secretary. Short, lean, a septu- 
agenarian, with a glistening cranium and a nose like a hawk's 
beak, this Breton proconsul was one of the amusing person- 
alities of the time. An ardent democrat, he had sat in 
the legislative chambers of the July Monarchy, the Second 
Republic, and the Second Empire, making himself quite a 
parliamentary reputation, not by his own speeches, but by 
the caustic, galling, and irrelevant manner in which he 
interrupted the speeches of others. Under his aegis Zola 
became acquainted with the whole entourage of the National 
Defence Delegation, from the astute and prim Q&nent 
Laurier, who had negotiated the notorious Morgan Loan, to 
the dishevelled, bohemian, and nicotian Georges Cavali, 
otherwise Pipe-en-Bois, who, tapping the British ambassador, 
Lord Lyons, on the shoulder one morning, while his excel- 
lency was somewhat impatiently waiting for Gambetta, had 
suggested familiarly : " I say, old man, don't bother about 
the governor ; let 's go and have a good glass of beer ! " I 

1 The "Blowitz Memoirs" (London, 1903} give an erroneous version of 
this story, transferring the scene to the Quai d'Orsay, in Paris, and making 
Cavalie secretary to Paschal Grousset, " Delegate for Foreign Affairs " of the 


In these circumstances Zola summoned his wife and 
mother to Bordeaux, and set himself to write letters and 
prepare reports for Grlais-Bizoin, pending another appoint- 
ment ; for the old democrat, on introducing him to Cldment 
Laurier, who disposed of most of the civil patronage, had 
said : " I want a prefecture for this young man, the first 
one that may fall vacant." In Glais-Bizoin's estimation, 
Zola's claim to such a post was self-evident; for he had 
belonged to the staff of t La Tribune," and since the Kevo- 
lution of September 4 all the writers on that journal had 
become members of the Government, ambassadors, or pre- 
fects. In Zola's case the first vacancies which occurred 
were the prefectures of Bayonne and Auch, but both were 
secured by more eager and active candidates, and all that 
Laurier could ultimately offer was a sub-prefecture, that of 
Castel-Sarrasin, a pleasant little town of seven thousand 
inhabitants, on the Garonne, not far from Montauban. 

This incident in Zola's career has been turned by some 
of his detractors into an exciting romance which it is un- 
necessary to recapitulate. The main facts have been given 
by Alexis, to whose Account a few particulars may be added, 
The war at that time was drawing to an end. Gambetta was 
anxious to prevent any partisans of the fallen Empire from 
being returned at the elections for an Assembly, which were 
becoming more and more inevitable and imminent. There 
was a sub-prefect at Castel-Sarrasin named Camille Delthil. 

Commune of 1871. As Lord Lyons was not then in Paris, that Torsion ia 
obviously wrong. The incident, which the ambassador himself narrated more 
than once in after years, really occurred at Tours late in 1870, Cayalie'a 
words being : " Dites clone, mon vieux, il ne faut pas se faire de bile, au 
sujet du patron. Allons plut6t prendre un bon bock ! " CaYalie" was a 
notorious bohemian, worthy of Murger ; he had been one of the leaders of the 
cabal against the Gkmeourts' play, " Henrietta Marshal. >f 


He was a young poet, tlie author of a volume of " 
Parisiens," to which he afterwards added " Les Kustiques " 
and " Les Lambrusques." He discharged his duties with the 
literary grace of a true Parnassian, and a mildness which 
arose from the circumstance that he was himself a native of 
Castel-Sarrasin. G-ambetta deemed him altogether too mild. 
According to the Dictator, to ensure the return of a Bepub- 
lican in that constituency a strong-fisted sub-prefect was 
needed, a man, too, who could pen vigorous and stirring 
proclamations. Now it occurred to Clement Laurier that 
Zola had a vigorous style and a stern mien, so why should 
not the novelist be set in the place of the poet, the latter 
being gently transferred to some other office ? But Delthil 
would not consent to this arrangement. Having been born 
at Castel-Sarrasin, he gloried in ruling it. 

According to the legend, he now threw off all his mild- 
ness, barricaded himself in his sub-prefecture, and defied 
both the Government and Zola, in such wise that the latter, 
although duly " gazetted," was unable to take possession of 
his post when he repaired to Castel-Sarrasin. But he 
never went there. The truth is that he had barely accepted 
the appointment when Paris capitulated, and Jules Simon 
arrived at Bordeaux to put an end to some of Gambetta's 
high-handed proceedings. Forthwith, in presence of the 
general " muddle " which arose, and with the thought, also, 
that now communications with Paris were restored, he 
might revert to journalism, and ultimately to literature, 
Zola called on Laurier and withdrew his acceptance of the 

It may be idle and unprofitable to speculate concerning 
"the might-have-been," yet a few remarks may well be 


offered respecting this curious episode in Zola's career. 
His original acceptance of Laurier's offer was explained by 
Mm to Alexis. Those were wild times, and every mind 
was more or less unhinged. < For my part," said Zola, " I 
imagined that it was the end of the world, and that there 
would be no more literature. I had brought the manu- 
script of the first chapter of 'La Cur^e' with me from 
Paris, and I occasionally looked at it as I might have looked 
at some very old papers which had become mere souvenirs. 
Paris seemed to me very far away, lost in the clouds ; and, 
as I had my wife and mother with me and no certain pro- 
spect of money, I ended by thinking it quite natural and 
advisable that I should plunge into politics, for which I 
had felt so much contempt previously, a contempt which 
speedily returned." l 

There was some little exaggeration in those last words as 
the sequel will show, though as Zola was a man of absolute 
convictions, one who detested compromises, it was- only 
natural that he should look unfavourably on many politi- 
cians and their methods. But, whatever his views, it hap- 
pened that politics repeatedly played an important part in 
his Hfe, even at the time when he appeared most devoted 
to purely literary pursuits. It does not seem very difficult 
to divine how his career would have shaped itself had he 
become a functionary. As he had too independent a char- 
acter to execute any orders unless he regarded them as 
right, he would soon have found himself at loggerheads 
with his superiors, dismissed or compelled to resign; and 
unlike the majority of the discarded functionaries of the 
period he could hardly have sought compensation in a 
1 Alexis, I, c., p. 173. 


parliamentary seat, for he was no orator. Thus, like some 
others, he might have heeome a mere hanger-on of the 
Republican party, one of those who only secured a real 
livelihood subsequent to Thiers and MacMahon, when Gam- 
betta's influence again became paramount in France. 

His refusal, at the first opportunity, of the sub-prefectoral 
appointment which he had only accepted as a pis-aller, was 
therefore wise. He could not get rid of politics, whatever 
may have been his desires, but he at least confined himself 
to the duties of a, political journalist. He became a cor- 
respondent of "Le Semaphore," the chief daily paper of 
Marseilles, his connection with which lasted seven years. 
Further he placed himself in communication with "La 
Cloche " of Paris, for which he had written a few articles 
previous to the Siege, and which, curiously enough, was 
directed by Louis Ulbach, the novelist and critic who 
had denounced "Th&se Raquin" as "putrid literature." 
That quarrel, apparently, had been patched up, and Zola 
and Ulbach, while remaining of antagonistic literary schools, 
had found some basis of agreement in politics. At all 
events the former now became the descriptive parliamen- 
tary correspondent of " La Cloche," recording the doings of 
the National Assembly, first at Bordeaux, later at Versailles, 
his connection with this journal lasting till the summer of 
1872, when he carried his pen to " Le Gorsaire," for which 
he wrote several fiery political articles, one of which, called 
"The Morrow of the Crisis" 1 almost led to the paper's 

1 This was a crisis provoked by Thiers' Presidential Message of November 
13, 1872, by which he asked for the definite constitution of a Republic, a pro- 
posal which led to a great outcry on the part of those who wished to place the 
Count de Chambord or the Connt de Paris on the throne. 


Leaving Bordeaux for Bans about the time when the 
Assembly removed to Versailles, Zola who had seen noth- 
ing of the German siege, at least witnessed various incidents 
of the Commune. 1 The little house in the Rue de La Con- 
damlne was now again his home, and at times he went 
about the city, and at others betook himself to Versailles, 
zealously attending to his duties for " La Cloche." At that 
moment there could be no thought of book-writing; but 
after the fall of the Commune at the end of May, 1871, he 
again turned to " La Cur6e^ and prevailed upon Ulbach to 
print that story as a serial Considerable confusion still 
prevailed in Paris, and he was put to many shifts for infor- 
mation which he needed shifts which some of his critics 
afterwards imputed to him as crimes, though the wonder is 
that he should have "teen able to write such a book at all, 
in Mi hurly-burly through which France was passing. 

** La Curfe w began to appear in "La Cloche * towards the 
and of September (1871), and about the same time Lacroix 
at last published the initial volume of the series, "La 
Fortune des Rougon," the final chapter of which had 
remained lying in the offices of " Le Si&cle " throughout the 
war, much to the alarm of Zola, who had regarded it as 
lost. The book met with little sale, little recognition, but 
this is not surprising. France had not yet recovered from 
the great convulsions of the war and the Commune, and 
small was the attention vouchsafed to literature. Moreover, 
as Paris slowly settled down to a degree of quietude, it 
desired, amusement more than anything else the spright- 
liest music, the gayest songs, the very lightest literature 
obtainable- It was the usual reaction, the same which 

1 See "Swrenirs ; XIV," in the "Nouveaux Contes k Ninon." 


had come with all the frivolity of the Directory after the 
Terrof s bath of blood. Produced, then, under the most 
unfavourable conditions, " La Fortune des Eougon " did not 
even secure the honour of a real second edition, for the 
copies which may be found bearing the mention "second 
edition" on their covers and title-pages, were merely a 
residue of the first one, only a portion of which was bound 
when the book originally appeared. 1 

This was bad, and it seemed really as if Zola would never 
reach the end of his troubles, for the Public Prosecution 
service took note of "La Cur6e" as it appeared in "La 
Cloche," and adjudged a certain account of a supper at the 
Caf Eiche to be immoral. It was early in November 
when Zola received an intimation from the Public Prose- 
cutor requesting him to call at his office. He did so and 
was received by an official who "advised" him to cease 
publishing his story in a newspaper. Zola protested the 
purity of his intentions, explained that his one desire was 
to show the corruption of society under the fallen Empire, 
but he finally accepted the official " advica" On Novem- 
ber 8, then, he wrote to Ulbach, asking him to suspend 
publication, his letter being printed in " La Cloche " with 
the following editorial comment : " We desire that the 
public should fully know that whatever may be our per- 
sonal opinion of Zola's analytical method, and whatever 
danger he may incur from the audacity of his studies, his 
imprudence is that of a most upright character, sincerely 
attached to truth in art." 

1 "La Fortune des Rougon," Librairie Internationale. 1st and 2d edi- 
tions: 1871, 389 pages, 18mo, 3 francs; 3d edition, Charpentier, 1872, 385 
pages, 18rao, 3 francs 50 centimes. Thirty-eighth thousand on sale in 1903. 


As It happened, the serial issue, if suspended in " La 
Cloche/ 1 was completed in a periodical called " La Kpub~ 
lique des Lettres** which Catulle Mendfes, the poet and 
son-in-law of Th^ophile Gautier, was then editing. Mendfes 
placed himself at Zola's disposal directly he heard of the 
affair, and curiously enough he rendered him a similar ser- 
Yice some years later with respect to " I/AssommoIr." The 
first edition of " La Cunfe ** was produced hy Lacroix early 
in 1872, 1 and soon afterwards the publisher, whose interests 
had been greatly affected by the war, was forced to suspend 
business. Thus once more the demon of ill-luck fell upon 
Zola's home. The "Lettees parisiennes" which he was 
then writing for ** La Cloche,** his correspondence for " Le 
Semaphore, 1 * did not supply all his needs ; terrible times 
eama b&ek, numerous bills giYen to Lacroix were protested, 
executions followed, and on one desperate occasion, there 
being nothing pawnable, for everything had been seized 
exaept' the bedding, which according to the law could not 
b attached, the very wool of the mattresses on which Zola 
and his wife slept was sold by the latter to a dealer in order 
to procure the necessary money for bread. 

In these distressful circumstances a great service was 
rendered to Zola by a man for whose literary style he had 
no great admiration, though curiously enough it was in 
more than one respect akin to his own. This was Th&>- 
phile Gautier to whose connection with Catulle Mendfes 
reference has just been made. Gautier had a fair know- 
ledge of the young man's literary work, and he heard, pro- 

1 **lA CHT&," Librairie Internationale; 1st edition: covers dated 1872, 
titiie-piges 1871, &SO pages, 18mo> S francs ; 2d edition, Cnarpentier, 1872, 
854 piges, ISnio, S francs 50 centimes ; 5th edition, 350 pages, 1876 ; fiftieth 
thousand on sale in 1903. 


bably from Mendfes, of his terrible position. Now Gautier's 
publisher was M. Georges Charpentier, who had lately taken 
over his father's business, and one evening when they and 
Francisque Sarcey were together at the Com^die Frangaise, 
their conversation, during one of the entr'actes, fell on the 
young writers of the time. "There is one among them/* 
said Gautier, 1 "who is very unlucky, and who is different 
from most of the others. You should admit him among 
your authors, my dear Charpentier. If I am not vastly 
mistaken he possesses a touch of genius. His name is 
Emile Zola, Have you ever heard of him?" 

Yes, both Charpentier and Sarcey had often heard of Zola, 
and had remarked his repeated efforts to get to the front. 
Nevertheless they were somewhat surprised by the praise 
which had fallen from Gautier's lips. He, subsequent to 
this conversation, caused Zola to be informed of the recom- 
mendation he had given him, and the young novelist soon 
called on M. Charpentier, whose establishment was then on 
the Quai du Louvre. For just one moment there had been 
a little hesitation on Zola's part. His only suit of clothes 
was quite disreputable, and both he and his devoted young 
wife felt that he ought, at least, to appear decently clad 
before this publisher on whom his fate depended. There 
was very little money in the house, but Madame Zola took 
it and hurried to the "slop" market of the Temple, where 
she purchased a second-hand suit of black, the nearest 
approach to a fit that she could find. In those slop gar- 
ments which remind one of Daudet's black trousers, 
similarly acquired, which suddenly became a military red, 
having been very imperfectly dyed Zola presented himself 

* M. Adolphe Brisson in "Le Temps," October 3, 1902. 


before Charpentier, and was pleased to find that he had to 
deal, not with the stern founder of the business, whom 
some authors regarded as a kind of terror, bnt with the son, 
a pleaaant, cordial man of about his own age. 

The position was explained: Lacrobc was ruined, and 
Zola wished to transfer his contract with certain modifica- 
tions, M. Charpentier asked for twenty-four hours to con- 
sider the matter, and on the morrow an agreement was 
arrived at. During a period of five years Zola was to 
supply two novels every twelvemonth, and Charpentier was 
to hand him five hundred francs every month ; that is to 
say, in addition to the two volumes published by Lacroix 
there would be ten others, representing in the aggregate a 
sum of thirty thousand francs. Whereas, however, in the 
contract with Lacroix, the money received by Zola was 
regarded as an advance, in that with M. Charpentier it was 
to be actual payment, in return for which the full copyright 
in each of the ten novels which Zola engaged to write would 
belong to M. Charpentier for ten years. During that period 
he would be at liberty to produce them in whatever manner 
he pleased, both serially and in book form, as well as to sell 
the rights of translation to foreign publishers, without 
paying Zola a single franc beyond the stipulated monthly 
allowance. 1 As Zola desired that the entire series should 
be in the hands of one publisher, a desire which Charpentier 
shared, there was also an understanding respecting "La 
Fortune des Eougon " and " La Curge/' the right to repub- 
lish which was secured from Lacrofx by a payment of eight 
hundred francs. 

The agreement with Gharpentier certainly extricated Zola 

1 AH that tike author retained was the dramatic rights. 


from an extremely difficult, position, and it is unlikely that 
he would have secured better terms, or even as good, else- 
where. But what did they amount to? To the prospect 
of an income of two hundred and forty pounds l a year for 
five years, in exchange for ten novels. As the sequel 
showed, such an income would hardly have sufficed for 
Zola's wants, particularly as there were many claims on 
him with respect to the bills he had given Lacroix. No less 
than thirty thousand francs* worth of paper bearing his 
signature or endorsement was in circulation about this 
time, says Alexis, and Zola had the greatest difficulty to 
prove that he had not been the ruined publisher's "man 
of straw." The nominal amount of his indebtedness was 
swollen, and the intricacy of the position increased, by the 
circumstance that many a time when a bill had been 
renewed it had not been returned to him, though the new 
bill was placed in circulation. It was only in 1875 that 
Zola was able to recover his notes and acceptances, and 
generally liquidate his position, by the payment of various 
amounts in accordance with an arrangement entered into 
with M. Lacroix. The latter, be it said, was an honourable 
but unlucky man, a victim both of circumstances and of 
misplaced confidence in others. 

But, to return to Zola. His contract with M. Charpentier 
did not free him from the necessity of doing his utmost to 
increase his income by journalism, to which he devoted no 
little time. This threw him back with his novels, which, 
as will be shown, often necessitated considerable prelimi- 
nary study, and which he refused to " scamp." The pub- 
lishing arrangement he had made partook undoubtedly of a 

* ATxmt $1,200. 


character; but lie was resolved that there 
should be nothing of the nature of pot-boiling about his 
literary work He found at last that he could not write 
more than one novel a year, and thus, though he drew his 
money regularly enough, the time came in or about 1875 
when he owed M. Charpentier two or three volumes. 
Mustering his courage, he called on his publisher to explain 
his position. But at the first words he spoke with respect 
to his overdraughts, M. Charpentier interrupted him. 

** My dear friend," said he, " I do not wish to rob you. 
I do not want to derive more than my usual profits from 
your work I have lately had an account of your sales 
drawn up on the basis of an author's royalty of forty 
centimes per volume, 1 and according to this account, it is 
not you who owe me money, it is I who owe you some ten 
thousand franca Here is our agreement, I tear it up, and 
aH you have to do is to see my cashier.** 

As Alexis remarks, after telling this story, what other 
publisher would have done such a thing ? In Zola's case 
it raised him from modest circumstances to affluence. Had 
the original contract remained in force he would have 
earned, inclusive of the earlier payments from Lacroix, no 
more than forty thousand francs by the first twelve volumes 
of his "Kougon-Macquart " series. At least he would have 
earned no more during the first ten years of their circula- 
tion. But thanks to M. Gharpentier's generous honesty, 
the successive increase, too, of Zola's royalty from forty to 
fifty and sixty centimes per volume, the various sums 
accruing from special issues, illustrated editions, popular 

1 The books sold at 3 francs 50 centimes each ; so the above would repre- 
sent a royalty of about 11 per cent. 


editions, Sditi&m de luxe, serial rights and translation rights 
all of which, under the agreement, would have belonged 
to the publisher he earned by those twelve books fully 
twenty times the amount of money he had covenanted to 
take for them. 

That said, it is as well to return to the year 1872, and 
show how, his long spell of absolute ill-luck ceasing, Zola, 
while still encountering much hostility, which presently 
was to grow into a furious storm, gradually advanced along 
the path of success, assisted by literature's handmaiden, 
journalism, and cheered by the friendship of some of the 
foremost men of letters of his time. 




Flaubert tad Ms intimates: Zola, Ooncourt, Tourgeneflf, Daudet, and Mau- 
passant 4< Th&te* Raquin " m a play * ' Le Ventre de Paris " and the 
wsasitiv critics A first charge of plagiarism The "Binners of the 
Hiwd Authors ** Zola, and good fare Sunday gatherings at Flaubert's 

** La Conqute de Piassans ** * e Lea H^ritiers Kabourdin " Zola in 
the Bo St. Georges His contributions to a Russian review **La 
Faote de FAbW Mouret " " Nouveaux Contes a Ninon" "Son Ex- 
<IIence Engine Rougon" The truth about "back-stairs gossip" 
Flaubert's mimicry of Napoleon III Zola, Daudet, and " personalities" 
in fiction Zola " sm mice and birds ** His stay at St. Anbin-sur-Mer 

He plans " L'Assonwnoir " Publication of t4 Son Excellence " Dra- 
iwttKS cxitMsin for "Le Bien Public^ Zola's income early in 1876 
Serial iwoe of " L'Assojmiiioir" The outcry and the cessation of publi- 
cation OatuBe Mend^s to tit rescue "L'Assotnrnoir" as a book 
Its large sales A furious controversy Articles, pamphlets, poems, 
pwodies awl lectures Ttte years of "L*Asscnmoir** a date in French 
lAtmtiire Other writings of the time Zola's "band/* Alexis, Huys- 
mans, Manpassant, Ceard, and Hennlqne Flaubert, " I/ Assommoir " 
aad "Naturalism" Zola*a hammer, journalism Self-assertion and 
pnshfnlness the weapons of the age. 

AITER tJie Franco-German War, Gustave Flaubert, wlio dur- 
ing fifteen years of the imperial r&gime Md resided, when in 
Paris, on the Boulevard du Temple, found a gied-h-terre in 
the Bue Murillo, near the Fare Monceau, thereby becoming 
one of Zola's neighbours, for the Eue Murillo is only a few 
minutes' walk from the Eue de La Condamine, Zola fre- 
quently called on Flaubert, whom he at first found very 
downcast, for the fall of the Empire seemed to him the end 
of the world, and besides, he had not yet recovered from the 
failure of his book, " L'Education sentimentale," published 
in 1869. It was at Flaubert's that Zola again met Edmond 


de Goncourt, who was still mourning his brother, and feeling 
so discouraged that he hardly dared to take pen in hand. 
With Zola and Goncourt came Flaubert's young disciple, 
Guy de Maupassant, at that moment little more than one- 
and-twenty, then Ivan Tourgeneff and Alphonse Daudet, 
whom. Zola had already met in the days of ** L'Ev&iement,** 
these five being for a time the only intimates of the author 
of "Madame Bovary." They were not a very gay party, it 
would seem. One Shrove Sunday, says Zola, while the car- 
nival horns were resounding in the streets, he sat till night- 
fall listening to Goncourt and Flaubert, who for hours did 
not cease recalling the past and lamenting its disappearance. 1 
Goncourt, on his side, receiving Zola about this time (June, 
1872), once more found him sickly and neurotic, complain- 
ing confusedly of rheumatism, heart and bladder trouble, 
and mastered by such acute nervous trembling that he had 
to employ both hands to carry his glass to his lips. 2 

At that date Zola was planning a novel on the Paris 
markets "Le Ventre de Paris" and dramatising his 
earlier book, "Th&fese Eaquin," working, so he told Gon- 
court, some nine hours and a half every day. When his 
play was finished he offered it to M. Hostein, the director of 
a new Parisian theatre, La Renaissance, and after numerous 
alterations had been effected, its five acts being reduced to 
four, it was staged and produced on July 11, 1873, when it 
met with a curious reception. The more frivolous, the 
"society" section of the audience, could not endure such 
tragic sombreness, and Francisque Sarcey, who held that the 
stage only existed for the amusement of the public, declared 

1 Zola's " Documents Litteraires," p. 178, 
a *' Journal des Gtoncourt," VoL IV, p. 44. 


that "fchia mm Zola 1 * made him feel " quite ill 1 * If, how- 
ever, there was some hissing at the first performance of 
"Thfofcee Raqmn, n there was also some applause, and 
when the curtain fell the question of success or failure 
seemed still to be hanging in the balance. But the profes- 
sional critics agreed to slate the play, and moreover the 
* dog-days " were just beginning, the heat emptying even 
those theatres which had hitherto drawn large audiences, in 
such wise that after nine performances La Renaissance 
closed its doors for the summer vacation, aad "Thr&se 
Baqtun," as a play, was heard of no more. 

Zola consoled himself with the comparative success of his 
novel, u Le Ventre de Paris," l which reached a second edition 
deservedly, for its kaMdoscopic pictures of the Paris mar- 
kets were the best descriptive work that the author had 
as yet penned* Nevertheless, the book encountered some 
sevesre criticism at the hands of the few reviewers who con- 
descended to notice it. "Writers devoid of any Rabelaisian 
sense denounced it as the apotheosis of gluttony ; the trans- 
ference of a pork-butchers shop to literature was regarded 
as outrageous ; and a certain u symphony of cheeses * gave 
one critic such a fit of nausea, that an unsuspecting foreigner 
reading his remarks might have imagined cheese to be an 
abomination to the delicately constituted Parisians, whereas, 
in fact, they then consumed and still consume to-day a 
greater amount and a greater variety of cheese, often with 

1 ^Le Ventre de Paris,** Paris, Gharpentier, 1873, 2 editions, 18mo, 362 
pages; Set edition, 1876, 18mo, 358 pages. From this point all the volumes 
of the ordinary edition of " Les Eougon-Macquarlj" were priced at 3 francs 50 
centimes. Tbe forty-seventh thousand of " Le Ventre de Paris " (Charpen- 
tier edition} was on sale in 1903. There is also an edition illustrated with 
wood eagravJEgs, Paris, Plananarlon, n* d. laige 8va 


the strangest flavours and odours, than any other community 
in the world. 

But, apropos of this same '* symphony," a Parnassian poet, 
one who was then regarded as a neo-Grecian, neither more 
nor less, M. Anatole France, pointed out rightly enough 
that the imagery in which Zola indulged was inconsistent 
with his claim already put forward, though not definitely 
enunciated, to be a realistic writer. ** Such vain, empty, and 
detestable virtuosi^" had no place, said M. France, in the 
realist system ; and indeed, taking that system as it was de- 
fined by Zola under the name of naturalism a little later, M. 
France was assuredly correct As a matter of fact the 
duality of Zola's nature was always appearing. He was for 
ever straying beyond the limits of the doctrines he pro- 
pounded, having quaffed too deeply of Hugo's rhetoric in his 
youth to be able to restrain himself. And it was as well, 
perhaps, to show that even at this early stage of his great 
series, his vagaries, his deviations from his self-chosen 
principles, already attracted attention. 

It was also apropos of this same " Ventre de Paris/' that 
the first of many charges of plagiarism was preferred against 
Zola. In this instance it was M, Nadar, photographer, 
aeronaut, caricaturist, and author, who declared that " the 
colour scale " of the sea of vegetables which Zola showed 
spreading around the Paris markets had been borrowed 
from something which he, Nadar, had written. But Zola 
had merely expanded a passage of one of his own early 
articles; and the suggestion of plagiarism was the more 
ridiculous as the first thing which strikes anybody, even 
with only a little artistic perception, when witnessing day- 
break at the Paris markets, is the diversity of the picture's 


hues, the great medley of colour gradually accentuated by 
the light of the rising sun. M* Nadar probably realised 
that Ms wntatttaon could not be regarded seriously. At all 
events the matter dropped, and Zola turned to Ms next 
volume, * La Conqufete de Plassans," as weU as to a new 
play, a three-act comedy, which he entitled " Les H&itiers 

Meantime, it had occurred to Flaubert to unite his 
intimates in a monthly dinner, which, said he, might be 
called **the Dinner of the Hissed Authors," He himself 
had been hissed for his pky, "Le Candidat," Zola had 
encountered a similar experience with "Th&fese Raquin," 
Alphonse Daudet with * L'AriMenne," and Edmond de 
Goncottrt with " Henrietta Mwr^chaL** Tourgeneff, also, was 
admitted to tibia company on the strength of his asser- 
tion that he had been hissed in Russia ; but, according to 
Daudet, when Emfte de Giraxdin, hearing of the project, 
wished to join the others pleading, no doubt, the recep- 
tion given to the notorious a Supplice d'une Femme " they 
promptly blackballed him on the ground that he was not 
a imratew. 1 

Thanks to the wine provided at those monthly dinners, 
they were livelier, though perhaps not more interesting, 
than the Sunday meetings in Flaubert's rooms. They took 
place at various restaurants, the first at the Caf Eiche, 
on April 14, 1874 2 Then, as Flaubert was starting for Le 
Croisset, near Eouen, the next was adjourned till the winter 

1 Alplionse Baudot's "Trenteans de Paris," 1888. There are numerous 
discrepancies in the accounts which. Daudet, Zola, and Goncourt have left of 
some of these dinners ; but the author has endeavoured to give a general idea 
of them. 

3 "Journal des Gonoourt," Yol. V, p. 17S. 

Photo by Nadar 

fimile Zola, 1876-1880 


months. As Zola tells us, during the years over which 
these dinners were spread, the choice of a restaurant for 
the next repast invariably led to great discussion among 
the five convives. Anxious apparently to sample every 
kind of cuisine, they went from the Cafd Riche to Voisin's 
in the Rue St. Honor4 ; from Voisin's to Adolphe and Pel#s 
near the Grand Opera House, and thence to the Byron 
on the Place de TOp^ra Comique. They feasted now on 
TxwillabaisBe, now on poulet aw kari. Tourgeneff naturally 
required caviar to whet his appetite ; Flaubert always in- 
sisted on having Normandy butter, and revelled in Rouen 
ducklings & FUouffade ; while Goncourt evinced a depraved 
taste for preserved ginger. As for Zola, he, according to 
Alphonse Daudet, was addicted to shellfish and sea-urchins j 
His friends occasionally twitted him respecting the par- 
tiality he began to evince for good fare, which cast, they 
said, a lurid light on his novel, "Le Ventre de Paris'* 
and he frankly acknowledged his gourmandise 3 pleading, 
however, that it was his only vice, and that he had gone 
hungry so many years! 

Of course there was no ceremony at those monthly dinners. 
Flaubert and Zola often took off their coats and sat down 
at table "in their shirt-sleeves," as the phrase goes, while 
between the courses Tourgeneff would sprawl on a sofa. 
And directly the coffee was served the waiters were turned 
out of the room, and a long discussion on literary subjects 
began, that is when it had not been started already at the 
outset of the repast " I remember," wrote Zola, in his recol- 
lections of Flaubert, 1 "a terrible discussion on Chateau- 
briand, which lasted from seven in the evening till one 

1 Zola's " Les Romaaciers Natuialistes," p. 181* 


o'clock in the morning. flaubert and Daudet defended him, 

Tourgeneff and I attacks! Mm, while Gkmconrt remained 
nenteaL At other times we took np the subject of the pas- 
sions, talked of women and love, and on those occasions the 
waiters looked at us aghast Then, as Flaubert detested 
haying to walk home alone, I accompanied him through the 
dark streets, and did not get to bed till three o'clock in the 
morning, for we halted at the corner of every open space to 

Meantime the Sunday gatherings at Flaubert's had become 
far less gloomy. The author of "Madame Bovary" had 
gradually accustomed himself to the new order of things, 
and when he removed from the Rue Murillo to the Fau- 
bourg St. Hotter^, a number of admirers surrounded him, as 
well as his half-dozen chosen intimatea 1 On some occar 
sions as many as twenty visitors assembled in his half- 
furnished white and gold drawing-room, which from three 
till six o'clock became full of tobacco-smoke, everybody 
except Zola freely indulging in pipe, cigar, or cigarette. He 
had ceased smoking under compulsion, in his days of dire 
necessity, and though no such compulsion existed now, even 
Flaubert seldom succeeded in forcing a pipe upon him. 

In his account of those Sunday gatherings, he allows us 
to understand that the speech often suggested the style of 
Eabelais, perhaps even of Villon, that spades were called 
plumply spades, which will not surprise those who know 
the Cambronnesc[ue epithet that Flaubert the stylist 

1 JUexis mentions among the frequent yisitors whom he met there : Fran- 
90k Copped, Catulle Mended, Maurice Boucher, Philippe Burty, J. K. Hnys- 
mans, Hemi Ce*ard, Marios Beta, L^on Hennique, Bergerat, Toudouze* Dr. 
Pouchet, and Charpentier, the publisher. At internals came Taine, Renan, 
Maximo Ihicamp, and Maurice Sand. 


applied to Ms own work, ** Madame Bovary," in his anger 
and weariness at being incessantly complimented on it. 
For the rest, Zola tells ns that the company " rattled through 
every subject, always reverting to literature, to the book or 
the play of the hour, or to some general question or venture- 
some theory ; but, at the same time, excursions were made 
into every field, and neither men nor things were spared. 
Flaubert thundered, Tourgeneff told stories of exquisite 
originality and savour, Goncourt pronounced judgment on 
one matter and another with all his shrewdness and per- 
sonal style of phraseology. Then Daudet acted his anecdotes 
in that charming manner of his, which made him the best 
of companions ; while as for myself I did not shine at all, 
for I am a very poor conversationalist, and only worth any- 
thing when I feel a deep conviction on some subject, and 
fly into a passion." 

To some of the aforementioned gatherings and dinners 
it will be necessary to refer again in the course of this 
narrative. What has been set down here will, however, 
indicate the nature of the companionship which came to 
Zola as he toiled along the path leading to success. He had 
not shaken off his old friends, he still gave his weekly 
dinners which one or another Alexis, Marius Roux, Coste, 
Duranty, and BUard, the painter, attended, though some 
began to fall out of the ranks, carried hither and thither 
by their private interests. Meantime, he worked very 
zealously. In 1874, he completed his story, " La Conqute 
de Plassans," the fourth volume of the Rougon-Macquart 
series and ran it through " Le S&cle " as a serial When 
it was published, soon afterwards, in volume form by 
Oharpentier, there was a sufficient demand to justify the 


printing of a second edition of this tale of priestly intrigue 
in public and prorate lifa 1 

But Zola's eyes were still turned towards the stage, 
partly because he desired to apply certain theories to play- 
writing, and partly because he knew that the successful 
dramatist advanced far more rapidly than the successful 
novelist along the path to fortune. Thus, having finished 
Ms three-act comedy, "Les H^ritiers Kabourdin/*' 2 in which 
the gruesome was mingled with the farcical, he offered it to 
the Palais Eoyal Theatre. But the manager of that house 
only cared for amusing plays free from all lugubrious taint, 
his chief author being Labiche, whose name was synony- 
mous with unadulterated merriment ; so Zola soon carried his 
manuscript to M. Montjgny of the Gymnase. Writing on 
July 23, 1874, to Ms friend and publisher, M. Charpentier, he 
gave the following account of the issue of his endeavours : 

a My negotiations with Moniagny have fallen through. He 
haaded me book my manuscript in the most charming manner, 
vowing that he had a keen desire to stage a play of mine. He 
eren gare me my mtrees to the Gymnase, by way of consolation, 
no doubt. Briefly, my play frightened him, but it is certain that 
he long hesitated about it, and that the doors of his theatre will 
be open to me if I only undertake * to be good/ As soon as my 
manuscript was returned to me I was eager to carry it elsewhere. 
Decidedly, it is a disease ; one wants to be 4 played/ whatever 
may be the chances. The only thing left for me to do was to 
knock at the door of the Theatre de Cluny. I went there. 
And, yesterday, Weinschenk [the manager] accepted my play. 
It will pass before Flaubert's,* about the middle of September, 

1 "La Oonqti$te de Plassans/* 1st and 2d editions: Paris, Charpentier, 
1874, 18mo, 406 pages ; 3d edition, 1876, 402 pages ," thirty-fourth thou- 
sand on sale in 1003. 

2 See ante, p. 144. 

8 TMi was a play called " Le Sexe Faible, Jr which Flaubert had agreed to 


heaven knows under what conditions, for the company frightens 
me terribly. But what would you have had me do I I had no 
alternative, I had to go to that galley to ensure myself some 
little peace of mind. It would have rendered me so unhappy to 
have left the manuscript lying in a drawer. 13 

The Theatre de Cluny was then a third or fourth rate 
little house in the Quartier Latin, and Zola's fears respecting 
its company were fully justified. To give an idea of the 
fate which befell his play it will be enough to mention that 
one of the " parts," that of Chapuzot, an octogenarian, was 
confided to a young fellow named Olona, who in his efforts 
to imitate an old man's voice ended by speaking like a 
"Punch." Nevertheless, there was no hissing at the first 
performance which was delayed until the 3d of November 
(1874); the demeanour of the audience being rather one 
of bewilderment, particularly when in the third act illness 
and death suddenly intruded into the midst of farce. But 
the critics did not hesitate. They damned the play even as 
they had damned "Th&&se Kaquin," "Le Figaro" curtly 
declaring that it was repulsive, tiresome, and immoral; 
and after seventeen performances, given to well-nigh empty 
houses, except on Sundays When the shopkeepers and 
working-people of the district attended and laughed good- 
naturedly, 1 " Les H^ritiers Eabourdin " disappeared from 
the stage without hope of revival. 

But this was not Zola's only work during the year 1874 
He had now moved from the Rue de La Condamine to 
21, Rue St. Georges (now Rue des Apennins) at Batignolles. 

supply to the The&tre de Cluny, but before doing so he read it to his 
intimates, who gave it so unfavourable a reception that he renounced all idea 
of having it performed. 
1 Alexis, L c,, p. 139. 


Hero again, unlike most Parisians, who live in flats, lie had 
a house to himself, with a garden, both considerably larger 
than the previous ones. In the Eue de La Condamine he 
himself had attended to his garden, made a kennel for his 
dog, erected his own fowl and rabbit houses for he was 
sMlful with his hands just like any other modestly cir- 
cumstanced dweller in Suburbia. But in the Eue St. 
Geoiges his prosperity increased, and instead of employing 
a mere fm,me-de-mlnage to help his wife in the housework, 
he was soon able to engage two servants, man and wife. 

His increased prosperity was due to the good offices of 
his friend, Ivan Tourgeneff, who took no little interest in 
him. At this time Zola no longer wrote political articles 
for the Paris press, for editors deemed his pen too violent ; 
and as he also carried revolutionary methods into literary 
discussion, he was unable to find in France any satisfactory 
outlet either for certain critical studies on eminent writers 
which he had often thought of undertaking, or for any 
adequate expression of his theories respecting fiction. In 
these circumstances Tourgeneff recommended him to a St. 
Petersburg review, the " Viestnik Yevropi," otherwise " The 
European Messenger." To this periodical Zola became a 
regular and well-paid contributor for several years. The 
essays and short stories which he wrote for it were natu- 
rally translated into Eussian, in which language they be- 
came known long before the French text was printed. 

It was also this Eussian review that first issued "La 
Faute de FAbb4 Mouret/* the fifth instalment of the 
"Eougon-Macquarts" and one of the most romantic of all 
Zola's novels. He wrote it in the Eue St. Georges in the 
summer of 1874, after arranging for the publication in 


book form of ten short stories which he had contributed 
during recent years to newspapers, almanacs, and other 
periodicals. The little volume was called "Nouveaiix 
Contes h Ninon, n and the reception given to it by both the 
critics and the public was distinctly encouraging. 1 The 
former, however, cold-shouldered "La Faute de FAbb4 
Mouret," which was published by Charpentier in 1875, 
though this was the first of Zola's novels that reached, not 
a great sale certainly, but one which may fairly be called 
considerable for that period. In 1876 a sixth edition of it 
was reached, followed by another in the ensuing year. 1 

When " Abb4 Mouret " was placed on the market, Zola, 
who seldom if ever rested, was already working on his next 
book, " Son Excellence Eugfene Eougon," in which he dealt 
with the political side of the Second Empire and sketched 
the life of the Imperial Court at Compi&gne. Some years 
previously, in 1865, when he was writing for "LTEv&ae- 
ment," that journal had published a series of articles 
signed "D," chronicling the imperial sojourn at Com- 
pi&gne ; and these had been collected in a volume to which 
the fanciful subtitle of " Confidences d'un Valet de Cham- 
bre" 8 was given, though, in point of fact, the author was 

1 "Nouveaux Contes & Ninon," 1st and 2d editions, Paris, Charpentier, 
1874, 18mo, 311 pages, 3d edition, 1877 ; new editions containing the Roiagon- 
Macquart genealogical tree, in 1878 and 1881 ,* new edition, including 14 tales 
and sketches, in 1885 et seq. ; ditto, 32mo, with 2 etchings, 1885 ; Con- 
quet* s edition, etched frontispiece and 30 vignettes, 2 vols., sm. 8ro, 1886. 

2 "LaFante del'Abbe' Monret," 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th editions, Paris, 
Charpentier, 1875, 18mo, 432 pages ; 5th and 6th editions, 1876 ; 7th, 
428 pages, 1877 ; fifty-second thousand on sale in 1$03. Of kte years eighty 
thousand copies have been sold of an illustrated edition in the " Collection 

8 "La Cour a Compiegne, Confidences d'un Valet de Chambre," Paris, 
Likairie du Petit Journal, 1866. 18mo, 303 pages. In E. A. Vizetelly's in- 


simply a journalist, recommended by Th^ophile Gautier for 
the express purpose of reporting the doings of the court 
during its mUeffmtura> and in that way refuting the thou- 
sand rumours of indescribable orgies at Compi&gne, which 
circulated among the more credulous Parisians. From the 
record in question, a very accurate one, Zola, who, of course 
had never been a guest at Compi&gne, derived considerable 
information, but sundry critics, unacquainted with the 
tenth, twitted him for having placed reliance on back-stairs 
gossip, when in reality he had taken as his guide statements 
issued with the Emperor's express approval. 

But further information was given him by Flaubert, who 
had visited Compifegne more than once as a court guest. 
And Goncourt tells us that Flaubert, when questioned by 
Zola, proceeded to mimic the kte sovereign in characteristic 
fwMon, walking up and down with his figure bent, resting 
one hand on Ms back, and twirling his moustache with the 
other, while mumbling idiotic remarks. "Napoleon III," 
added Flaubert, by way of comment, "was unadulter- 
ated stupidity"; to which proposition Goncourt retorted, 
wittily and with great truth, that stupidity was usually 
loquacious, whereas the Emperor's had been silent stupidity. 
**It was that which made his strength, it allowed one to 
suppose everything." 1 No better judgment than this was 
ever passed on Napoleon III. For twenty years the world 
regarded him as "deep," though, in reality, he was in 
many respects a fool, one who would never even have 

twxinetion to the English yersion of ** Son Excellence Eugene Rongon " ( " His 
IbcceBeBcy," London, Cnatto, and !N"ew York, Macmillan, 1897 d seq.) t it is 
stated in error that the articles first appealed in "Le Figaro/' whereas it was 
the latter* companion-print, ** L^venement," which issued them, 
i JotumL dtes Gonconrt," YoL Y, p. 100 (March 7, 1875), 


reigned over France had it not been for the energy and 
acumen of his bastard half-brother, the Duke de Horny. 

Apropos of the latter, Goncourt mentions that one day 
when Alphonse Daudet, who had been in the Duke's em- 
ployment, was giving various particulars about him, Zola 
expressed a keen regret that he had not possessed this 
information in time to use it in w Son Excellence,** which con- 
tains but a very imperfect sketch of Horny under the name 
of Marsy. In a discussion which ensued, Zola evinced great 
eagerness to put everything into his books that is every- 
thing he learnt which might be germane to his subjects and 
likely to cast light upon them. On the whole, however, 
he was far less "personal" than Daudet. Both in "Son 
Excellence Eug&ne Eougon " and in his later novel, " Paris,** 
although many of the characters suggested well-known 
people, almost every one of them was a blend, so to say, of 
three or four originals, whereas Daudet, sketching his 
characters from the life, often modified them so little that 
those who knew their Paris could not regard some of his 
books otherwise than as pillories. 

The writing of " Son Excellence Eugene Eougon " proved 
a somewhat laborious task for Zola, the period selected for the 
story being largely antecedent to his participation in news- 
paper life, from which he had learnt so much both politically 
and socially. And his desire to be scrupulously accurate in 
all essential particulars led him to undertake a variety of 
fatiguing researches. Hard work, indeed excessive work, 
for he wrote regularly for the Kussian review, and penned 
some Parisian correspondence every day for "Le Semaphore" 
of Marseilles, besides proceeding with his novel, again re- 
duced him to a nervous condition, and one day, when he 


w&s with Gcmeourt and others, he complained that while he 
wrote he often fancied he could see mice scampering about 
Mm, or birds flying away on one hand or the other. That 
spring (1875) others also felt " run down/' as the saying 
goes. Tourgeneff, for instance, complained of his nerves, 
aad Flaubert was haunted by the idea that there was always 
somebody behind him while he worked. 1 

At last, when the summer came and his book was finished, 
Zola resolved to seek a change, though not absolute rest, for 
idleness was repugnant to him* His circumstances had 
now greatly improved; M. Charpentier had torn up the 
original agreement for the Eougon-Macquart series, and 
opened has cash-box, and Zola had at last liquidated the 
liabilities which he had incurred by the failure of Lacroix. 
So, with his wife and mother, he betook himself to a little 
Norman watering-place, Si Aubin-sur-Mer, lying between 
the mouth of the Ome and the Calvados rocks, and reached, 
in those days, by coach from Caen. 

It was the*e, as Alexis relates, that he planned his next 
book, "L'Assommoir," the idea of which had occurred to him 
before his departure from Paris. In Ms previous volumes 
he had dealt with the Imperial Court, the Parisian society, 
the political world, the provincial life, the clerical intrigues 
of the Second Empire, and it was only in " Le Ventre de 
Paris " that he had cast some side-lights upon the working 
class of the capital. They, however, deserved an entire 
volume to themselves, and Zola felt that he could write one, 
based largely on his own personal knowledge of their habits 
and customs ; for in his days of poverty he had dwelt among 
them at Montrouge, and in the Eue St Jacques, and again 
i " Journal to Goaccmrt," ToL Y, p. 202 (April 25, 1875), 


on the Boulevard H ontparnasse. Besides what he had writ- 
ten about them in a few newspaper articles or short stories, 
such as **Le Chomage," "Hon voisin Jacques" and w Le 
Forgeron," l which will be found in the " Nouveaux Contes k 
Ninon," he remembered a great many things, funerals, fes- 
tivities, and junketings. He had discovered, too, a suitable 
title " L'Assommoir " in Alfred Delvau's slang diction- 
ary, and it was this circumstance which, when he had written 
two chapters of the book in his usual style, suddenly in- 
spired him with the idea of penning it in the real vernacular 
of the Parisian masses, not the special slang of thieves and 
prostitutes, such as Eugfcne Sue had employed, and, in part> 
invented, in "Les Mystferes de Paris," but in the current 
langage populaire, understood by everybody. 2 

It was during Zola's stay at St. Aubin, face to face with 
the sea, whose influence was not lost upon him for, as 
will be shown, it suggested in part a later work, "La Joie de 
Vivre," that he mapped out this book on the Parisian pro- 
Utaire, which was to raise him to fame ; and Alexis tells us 
that though he already had the chief scenes of the story in 
his mind he was for a time at a loss for a suitable intrigue 
which would weld them well together. The idea of taking 
a girl of the people, who stumbles and has two children by 
her seducer, then marries another man, establishes herself in 
business by dint of hard work, but is borne down by the 
conduct of her husband, who becomes a drunkard, had pre- 
viously occurred to him, figuring, indeed, in the original 
genealogical tree which he had drawn up for hia series, but 

1 In "Le Foigeron" one will find the first idea of Goujet of "L'Assom- 
moir " ; while " Mon voisin Jacques " is the original of Bazouge, the mute, 
a Alexis, Z. c., p, 109. 


he felt that the husband's drunkenness might not fully 
account for the wife's downfall, and he remained at a loss 
how to proceed until, all at once, he was inspired to "bring 
the woman's seducer back into her home. That would 
make everything possible, and he decided to model his story 

He busied himself with *' L'Assommoir " on his return to 
Paris in the autumn, and arranged for the " serialisation " of 
his completed novel, * Son Excellence Eug&ne Rougon," in 
"Le Si&cle" early in the following year, 1876. 1 He was 
then in high spirits. ** Fortune/' he said to Edmond de 
Goncourt, " was at last finding its way to his home." In- 
deed, a stroke of luck had befallen him, A daily evening 
paper, *<Le Bien Public/* had appointed Mm its dramatic 
critic at a salary of six thousand francs a year. This journal 
had been started with the support of Thiers, since whose 
resignation of the presidency of the Republic in 1873 France 
had been governed in a reactionary spirit by MacMahon's 
ministers. During that troublous period " Le Bien Public," 
whose connection with Thiers was well known, rendered 
good service to the Republican cause, first rallying 
many hesitating people, then becoming more and more 
democratic, and helping on that alliance of the middle class 
and the prol&tariat which saved France from monarchical 
intrigues and resulted in MacMahon's downfall. Zola was 
delighted to join the paper, particularly as it allowed him 
all freedom in his dramatic criticisms, which were written 
in his usual trenchant style. Of course he had to give to 

1 A little later it was issued in "book form : " Son Excellence Eugene 
Boogon," Paris, Cnarpentier, 1876, 18mo, 466 pages. The demand was smaller 
than tbat for tne previous volume, " La Faute de TAbbe* Mouret" ; and in 
1903 only tibe thirty-sixth thousand was on sale* 


them some of the time he had hitherto allotted to his books, 
but he was not afraid of additional work, particularly when 
it was of a nature to bring him nearer to the Parisian stage, 
on which, in spite of every rebuff, he still dreamt of triumph- 
ing. Moreover, the increase in his income was very wel- 
come ; with the salaries he received from " Le Bien Public ** 
and "Le Semaphore" for which, he still wrote the pro- 
ceeds of his contributions to the Russian review, which 
some months amounted to eight hundred francs, and the 
money accruing from his books, Hs income, in the early 
part of 1876, before the serial publication of " L'Assommoir," 
represented quite twenty-five thousand francs, and perhaps 
thirty thousand francs a year. 1 But he decided to offer his 
new story to "Le Bien Public"; and that he could now 
command good terms is shown by the fact that the paper 
agreed to pay Mm ten thousand francs for the serial rights 
without even seeing his manuscript, which, by the way, was 
not ready, though he had given information respecting the 
subject he meant to treat. 

The serial issue began in June (1876) and there was an 
immediate outcry. Whatever might be thought of Zola's 
novels in book form, they were not liked by the news- 
paper readers of those days ; and, in the case of " L' Assom- 
moir," there were not only complaints of immorality, but 
the author was accused, ludicrously enough, of slandering 
the masses, insulting the working classes. The latter charge 
alarmed the director of "Le Bien Public" far more than 
the first did. Important political issues were then at stake, 
and it was essential that the working-man should not be 
offended ! Of course people judged the story merely by 

i From 1,000 to 1,200, or from about $5,000 to $$,000. 


the instalments as tibtj appeared, and these as yet gave 
little indication of what it would be when completed. Thus 
a very narrow view was taken by some readers, while others 
were more particularly horrified by the slang in which the 
work abounded, complaining notably of its appearance, not 
only in the dialogue but in the descriptive and narrative 
passages, into which Zola had introduced it with the ex- 
press object of suggesting that this was a story of the masses 
told by one of themselves. Briefly, in all respects, the 
outcry became so great that in July the director of "Le 
Bien Public" decided to cease publication* Nevertheless, 
the paper honestly paid Zola the full amount specified in 
the agreement 

At this moment M. Catixlle Mend&s again came to the 
rescue, and, for a nominal sum, a thousand francs or so, 
Zola handed Mia the remainder of his manuscript for pub- 
lication in a La E4publique des Lettres * ; then, leaving his 
Hterwy bombshell to complete its work, betook himself to 
Piriac, on the Breton coast, between Vannes and St. Nazaire, 
for a holiday. In Paris the periodical edited by M. Mend&s 
suddenly leaped into notoriety. It supplied the latter part 
of " L'Assommoir'* gratuitously to those subscribers of "Le 
Bien Public " who desired to read it ; but at the same time 
its sales increased largely, for so much was said about this 
extraordinary story, so violent were the attacks upon it, 
that many, who as yet had seen nothing of it, wished to 
ascertain its character and form their own opinions. 

Amid all the hubbub, a well-known Parisian journalist of 
that period, Tony KMllon, who had catered for the working 
classes since the latter years of the Empire, meeting Paul 
Alexis one day in the autumn, said to him : " Tell Zola to 


make Ms mind easy. His book will sell like hot cakea . , 
' L'Assommoir * will be a wonderful success/* 

In a pecuniary sense, such was indeed the case directly 
1 Charpentier published the book in 1877. 1 Of the ordi- 
nary edition fifty thousand copies a very large figure for 
those days were soon sold, and at the end of 1879, eighty 
thousand had been disposed of ; these being independent of 
a " popular " illustrated edition, issued in fifty-nine " parts * 
at ten centimes apiece, forty thousand copies of which were 
disseminated chiefly among the Parisian working classes 
(whom the story was said to libel) in the course of 1878 
alone. From 1877 onward an unexampled controTersy 
raged round the book as well as round Zola's principles and 
methods generally a controversy to which additional zest 
was imparted both by a dramatic adaptation of the story, 
which drew all Paris to the Theatre de TAmbigu, and by 
the publication in French of some of the articles on French 
literature and literary men which Zola had written for the 
Kussian review. More fuel was added to the fire by a 
pamphlet he penned and called " la Edpublique franaise 
et la Literature," and by a series of papers he contributed 
to " Le Voltaire " and collected a little later under the title 
of "Le Eoman Experimental." Wherever one went in 
Paris one heard allusion to or discussion of Zola* "I/As- 
sommoir," and " naturalism." The newspapers were full of 
articles: the author was attacked by such men as Henri 

* " L'Assommoir," Paris, Charpentier, 1877, 18mo, 573 pages ; one hun- 
dred and twenty-seventh thousand on sale in 1893 when the Eougon-Macquart 
series was completed ; one hundred and fifty-first thousand reached in 1903. 
Illustrated edition : Paris, Marpon and Ilammarion, 1878, large 8vo, title, 466 
pages, with 62 wood engravings after Gill, Clalrin, Leloir, etc. Issued origi- 
nally in parts (see above), the volume was priced at 6 francs. It has "been 
frequently reprinted. 


Fouquier in **Le XIX* Si&cle, n Francisque Sarcey in "Le 
Temp/ 1 Jules Claretie in "La Presse," Gaucher in "La 
Revue Bleue.** " La Revue de France " joined in the hos- 
tile chorus and so, too, did the Olympian "Revue des 
Deux Mondes w ; while * La Vie litt&raire " and " La Jeune 
Fmnce * joined " La R^publique des Lettres w in defending 
the much-abused author. 

But pamphlets also rained upon Paris ; there was " Zola, 
Pape et CMsar," by Madame Arnault ; " Monsieur Zola/* by 
"Papa Cadet "; a * Petit Trait^ de Literature Naturaliste," 
by "Camille B." and Albert Vanier; " Naturalisme ou 
R&lisme," by F. de Bus ; * M. Zola et son Assommoir," by 
Fr&Mric Erbs; "Apropos de FAssommoir, 19 by Edouard 
Rod, and several others* But mere pamphlets did not 
suffice ; there eame ** poems " like ** En r'venant d' TAssom- 
rndtr,^ by (Mipaux ; parodies like " L'Assommoir du Cirque 
FmncOTii * and * L'Assommoir pour rire " by Blondelet and 
Beatraaaine ; and finally there were lectures both against 
Zola and in defence of him, the most notable of the latter, 
one which particularly angered both the conservative critics 
and the sensitive Parnassians, being delivered by M. L^on 
Hennique in the Salle des Conferences on the Boulevard 
des Capucines, 

To a few of the matters enumerated above, the production 
of " L'Assommoir " as a play, and the publication in volume 
form of some of Zola's literary papers, it will be necessary 
to refer again in following the thread of this narrative ; but 
they have been mentioned here in order that the reader may 
at once form some idea of the sensation which the appear- 
ance of "L'Assommoir" caused, first in the literary world 
of Paris, whence it spread throughout the reading public. 


In the literary annals of France, 1876, 1877, and 1878 must 
always rank as the years of "L'Assommoir." Yet they 
were by no means barren in other respects. They cover the 
period when Victor Hngo published, not only a new series of 
" La L<$gende des S&cles," but also * I/Art d'etre Grandpfere " 
and " L'Histoire d'un Crime" And other poets were raising 
their voices : Leconte de lisle was issuing his translation of 
Sophocles, Mallarm4 his " Aprfes-midi d'un Faune," Dierx his 
"Amants," Anatole France his "Nooes Corinthiennes,** 
Eichepin his " Chanson des Gueux. w And fiction, as usual, 
poured from the printing presses of France. Flaubert's 
" Trois Contes " ; Daudet's " Jack " and " Le KTabab " ; Gon- 
court's "La Fille Elisa"; Octave Feuillet's "Amours de 
Philippe " ; George Sand's last stories, * La Tour de Perce- 
mont" and "Marianne"; Ferdinand Fabre's best book, 
"L'Abb Tigrane," were then first offered to the reading 
public. And going further afield one finds " Le Train 17 " 
and ** La Maison Vide," by Jules Claretie ; " Les Batailles du 
Manage " and " Sans Famille," by Hector Malot ; " Samuel 
Brohl," by Cherbuliez; "Kaymonde," by Andr4 Theuriet; 
" Michel Strogoff," by Jules Verne ; " L*Homme de la Croix- 
aux-Bceufs," by L^on Cladel, also appearing at this time. 
But none of these, and indeed, briefly, no novel, or play, or 
poem, or historical or philosophical work of the time stands 
forth conspicuously, preeminently, as " L'A&sommoir " does, 
to give its name to the date, to mark the period, to indicate 
a climax or an evolution in French literature. 

Before " L'Assommoir," the critics had often treated 
Zola's books and theories with silent contempt, but they 
could do so no longer. They were at last compelled to 
recognise that a new force had arisen, and that they must 



be up and doing If they wished to prevent it from gaining 
the mastery. As happens at every literary evolution, as was 
the case when the Romantic supplanted the Classic school, 
all the older men, and, indeed, nearly all of any age who had 
acquired a recognised position, were against Zola, his adher- 
ents being mostly young writers whose positions were not 
yet made. It has been mentioned that some of the friends 
of his youth and early manhood had dropped away from 
him, in a measure by the force of circumstances. But " Le 
Ventre de Paris " and " I/Assommoir " brought him others, 
and in particular there were five young men of great promise 
who, for a time, became known as his "band." Taking 
them by order of seniority, one may place first the ever- 
faithful Paul Alexis, a Provencal, in 1877 thirty years of 
age. Second came Joris Karl Huysmans, a Parisian of 
Dutch origin, nine and twenty years old, and already the 
author of a volume of prose poems suggestive of Baudelaire, 
and a novel, " Marthe." Next there was Guy de Maupas- 
sant, a Norman, seven and twenty, introduced to Zola by 
their mutual friend and master, Flaubert; then Henri 
Card, a thoroughbred Parisian, six and twenty, who without 
introduction had called upon Zola one Sunday to tell him 
that he had read his books and admired them ; and, finally, 
L6on Hennique, a native of G-uadeloupe, who numbered but 
five and twenty years against the seven and thirty which 
Zola completed at the time when his first great book was 
published. 1 

1 To the information given above it may be added that Alexis's first note- 
worthy work was a play, "Celle qu'on n'epouse pas" (Gymnase, 1879) fol- 
lowed by "La Mn de Lucie Pellegrin," a novel, 1880. Maupassant's first 
prose volume was "La Maison Tellier," 1881, following one of verses, 1880, 
Ceard's first novel was "Une Belle Journ^e," 1880; and Hennique's "La 


Every Thursday, for some years, those five young men, 
two of whom, Maupassant and Huysmans, afterwards rose 
to eminence, visited Zola and talked " literature " with him, 
even as on Sundays he and they visited Gustave Flaubert. 
The latter, amid all the hubbub and controversy pro- 
voked by " L'Assommoir," felt that Zola was going too far, 
at least farther than he, Flaubert, would have gone. He 
always underrated his own realism or naturalism, if one 
prefer that term as displayed in "Madame Bovary," as 
well as his own philosophy, outlined in " I/Education senti- 
mentale " and " La Tentation de St. Antoine " ; and if Zola's 
account of him be accurate, his one ambition was to be 
known and remembered as a stylist, a master of impeccable 
French. He even denied that " Madame Bovary " marked 
any evolution in fiction, he shut his eyes to the deductions 
which others drew from it, and thus, when he found himself 
confronted by Zola's venturesome theories, he was at first at 
a loss to account for them. In one sense his astonishment 
was amusing : it suggested the surprise of the cause at the 
sight of so remarkable an effect. But if he twitted Zola 
about his naturalist professions of faith he did so, as 
Goncourt observes, " avec de trks grands coups de chapeau " 
for he fully recognised the ability of the man who claimed 
to be his disciple. One thing which he did not like was 
the eagerness with which Zola accepted controversy and 
proclaimed his doctrines on all possible occasions, for this 
seemed to be too suggestive of self-advertisement. 

Devoue*e," 1878. Both the latter as well as Alexis may "be best classed as 
playwrights, their later and principal literary work having "been done for the 
stage. Like Maupassant and Huysmans, however, they contributed with 
Zola to " Les Soirees de Medan/' 1880, which will be noticed in its proper 


Zola, however, replied very naturally, frankly, and boldly, 
that he, Flaubert, possessed a small fortune and was there- 
fore able to disregard all sorts of considerations, whereas he, 
Zola, had been obliged to earn his living by his pen and 
undertake at times all kinds of writing, even contemptible 
work. " What I write," he added, " may be divided into 
two parts. There are my books, by which I am judged, 
and by which I desire to be judged; and there are my 
critical notices in *Le Bien Public/ my Russian articles, 
and my correspondence for Marseilles which I regard as of 
no account, which I reject, and which I only undertake in 
order to help on my books. I first placed a nail in position 
and with the stroke of a hammer I drove it half an inch 
into the brain of the public, then with a second blow I 
drove it in an inch* Well, my hammer is the newspaper 
work which I myself do round^my own books." 1 

Nothing could have been more frank than this, not even 
his remark on the same occasion in reply evidently to 
some criticism of Flaubert's, which Goncourt does not 
exactly specify, that he cared not a rap for the word 
" naturalism/ 3 and yet intended to repeat it, because things 
required christening in order that the public might regard 
them as new. 2 In all this one traces the determination to 
succeed at any cost, the fighting spirit which had prompted 
Zola to write to Antony Valabrfegue, more than ten years 
previously, that he belonged to an impatient age, that if he 
did not trample others under foot they would pass over him, 
and that he did not desire to be crushed by fools. Thus, 
whatever might be his contempt for the weapons of his time 

1 " Journal des Goncourt," Vol. V, pp. 314-315. 

3 It is probable that Flaubert had. questioned the novelty of "Naturalism." 


advertisement and pushfulness lie readily made use of 
them, feeling that if lie neglected to do so, amid all the 
stress, all the fierce competition around him, he might well 
go under and fail to reach the goal, in spite of the talent of 
which he was conscious. The battle of the age was the 
keenest there had ever been, a man could only triumph 
by incessantly thrusting himself forward, and Zola, for his 
part, did so without hesitation. 




*' "One Page d* Amour " The portrayal of Love Zola buys a house at M6dan 

His play, ** Le Bouton de Rose " He is accused of stealing the plot 
of c< line Page d' Amour " He attacks contemporary French novelists 
Opinions of Feuillet and Dumas fils on Zola "The Republic and Litera- 
ture " Zola and the Legion of Honour Flaubert and " Bouvard " 
A Cabinet Council negatives the decoration of Zola " L'Assommoir " as 
a play Zola and Mr. George Moore The effect of affluence on Zola 

The transformation of M&lan Zola's studies Humanitarianism 
enters into his literary conceptions Scientific fiction and its aim 
Preparations for "ISTana" La Palva The courtesans of the Second 
Empire }" Nana " is published in " Le Yoltaire " The facial mask of 
small-pox "JSTana" as a book Idealism and Naturalism: attractive 
and repulsive vice " Les Soirees de Medan" Maupassant's **Boule de 
Suif " Hereditary insanity and strong passions Death of Gustave Flau- 
bert Zola's essay on Flaubert Death of Zola's mother His campaign 
in "lie Figaro" His attack on Hugo's "L'Ane" He assails Gara- 
betta His article on " Drunken Slaves " and defence of " L'Assommoir " 

" Kana " as a play Leontine Massin plays Nana in real life as well as 
on the stage Zola's "Romanciers Faturalistes," "Documents Litt<- 
raires," " Naturalisme au Theatre " and "Auteurs Dramatiques" His 
life of unflagging industry. 

AT an early period of the controversies provoked by " L' As- 
sommoir/* that is when its publication had been transferred 
to "Le Bien Public," Zola quitted Paris for L'Estaque, a 
tiny village nestling below precipitous mountains on the 
shore of the Golfe des Crottes, beyond which spreads the 
Mediterranean, with the various islands, including the 
Chateau d'lf of Monte Cristo," which mark the approach 
to the port of Marseilles. In this quiet retreat, where life 
among the tunny-fishers was rather primitive, the novelist 


began to write " Une Page d' Amour," which he had planned 
before leaving Paris. Edmond de Goncourt mentions an 
amusing discussion started by Zola, apropos of this book, at 
a dinner given to Tourgeneff, who was leaving for Eussia. 
Love, in Zola's opinion, did not master one so absolutely as 
some pretended ; and, said he, phenomena similar to those 
which might be observed in love were also to be found in 
friendship and patriotism. Tor his part, he had never been 
madly in love, and therefore found it difficult to depict such 
a state of things in others. Flaubert and Goncourt admitted 
a similar incapacity, arising from the same cause, and it was 
agreed that the only one of the party whom experience 
might have qualified to portray the great passion adequately, 
was Tourgeneff, who, however, was unfortunately deficient 
in the necessary critical sense. 

The question whether Zola's portrayal of love in "Une 
Page d' Amour" was adequate is certainly open to doubt; 
and whatever the power and beauty of the book's pictures 
of Paris, as viewed from the Trocad^ro, at sunrise, at sun- 
down, at night, in a storm, and under the snow, one may 
demur to the often expressed opinion that they were the 
best he ever limned. They doubtless cost him an effort, but 
after the great labour which the writing of " L'Assommoir " 
had involved, " Une Page d* Amour," with its few characters 
and its narrow scope of action, was almost a restful book. 
It should be observed, indeed, that Zola seldom penned two 
great panoramic works in succession. His own explana- 
tion of the course he took in writing such comparatively 
quiet books as " Une Page d' Amour," " La Joie de Vivre " 
and "Le Kve" between works of crowded incident like 
L'Assommoir,""Nana,"" Germinal," "La Terre," and "La 


Bte Humaine," was that he wished to diversify his series 
as much as possible; but it is also certain that he often 
found it necessary to husband his energies, to allow himself 
breathing time, as it were, between two great efforts. 

He spent some months at L'Estaque writing " line Page 
d' Amour," and on returning to Paris late in the autumn of 
1877, enriched as he was by the sales of " L'Assommoir," he 
removed his home to a handsome third-floor flat, 23, Rue de 
Boulogne. Then, while searching the environs of Paris for 
a country pied-fa-terre, a convenient retreat for the following 
summer when the first great Exhibition since the Franco- 
German War was to "be held in Paris he came upon a 
little house which took his fancy. It stood on the verge 
of the village of M^dan, which overlooks the Seine, beyond 
Poissy. Zola merely wished to rent it, but the owner de- 
sired a purchaser, not a tenant, and in the end the novelist 
bought the little place for nine thousand francs. 1 A few 
weeks later, says Alexis, builders, painters, and upholsterers 
were turned into the house to repair and fit it for occupa- 
tion, and for several years they remained busy there on the 
various enlargements which followed and the other work 
which became necessary. 

Already in 1876, having acquired by his contributions to 
" Le Bien Public f> what may be at least called a conspicuous 
position as a dramatic critic of very absolute views, Zola, 
still hankering for theatrical success, had written a farce 
called "Le Bouton de Rose" intended for the Palais Royal 
Theatre. At the beginning of 1877 the parts were distribu- 
ted, and some rehearsals even took place; then, however, 
the success of the work seeming doubtful, it was postponed ; 

i 360 = about?!, 800. 


and Zola himself, somewliat diffident as to its merit, at 
last decided to withdraw it altogether. But early in 1878 
the great uproar occasioned by " L'Assommoir " inspired the 
directors of the Palais Eoyal Theatre with a fresh desire 
to stage this play by a man whose name was now on every- 
body's lips. They urged him to consent, and he ultimately 
did so, making various alterations which the directors deemed 
to be advisable. The play was then rehearsed again, and 
both the managers and the actors, now as sanguine as they 
had previously been doubtful, imagined that it would prove 
a triumph. But at the first performance (May 6, 1878 ) the 
audience, after receiving the first act with favour, became 
angry during the second, and hissed the third freely. In 
vain did Geoffroy, the leading comedian, endeavour to an- 
nounce the author's name according to usage ; such a tre- 
mendous din arose when he appeared before the footlights, 
that he was unable to make himself heard. Meantime Zola, 
in the slips, was saying to the crestfallen directors : tc You 
see I was right. You insisted on staging the piece in spite 
of me. Your earlier decision to drop it was the better one." 
In accordance with custom, he had arranged to celebrate 
the first performance by a supper at Vfour's. In a sense 
the repast was a funereal one, though it proved by no means 
doleful, for Zola took the failure of his play right cheerfully, 
merely regretting that he would now have to modify the 
order of the work which he had proposed to undertake that 
year. Had " Le Bouton de Eose " been successful, he had 
intended to begin another play, based on his novel "La 
Cure," but that would now have to wait while he started 
on the next novel of his series. Some days later, when din- 
ing at M. Charpentier's, he told Goncourt that the failure of 


"Le Bouton de Rose** made him feel quite young again. 
The success of " L'Assommoir " had unnerved him, whereas 
lie now seemed to have got back to his twentieth year. He 
needed to be imbued with an angry fighting spirit, said he, 
in order to write the many volumes which were required to 
complete his Kougon-Macquart series. 

" Une Page d'Amour" was about this time issued serially 
by "Le Bien Public,^ whose readers took it more quietly 
than they had taken " L'Assommoir " ; but when it appeared 
as a volume * Zola was accused of having stolen his plot 
from a novel called " Les Amours d'un Homme Laid," by 
a Madame Berton, nee Samson. It may be said at once 
that there are several points of resemblance between the 
plots of these stories. A young widow, a doctor, and a 
sickly child are prominent characters in both. At the same 
time there is great difference of treatment; and Zola, on 
hearing of the accusation, which first emanated from a jour- 
nal called " La Paix Sociale," at once wrote to it : "I have 
never read Madame Berton-Samson's story, and until today 

1 was ignorant of the existence both of the author and 
of the work." 

To an unprejudiced person it may well seem that the 
similarity existing between his story and Madame Berton's 
was due solely to the long arm of coincidence. But of 
course his enemies asserted that he lied. According to them 

1 "Tine Page <T Amour," Paris, Charpentier, 1878, 18mo, Tii-486 pages 
(genealogical tree of tlie Rougon-Macquarts) ; seven ty-fifth thousand on 
sale in 1893 when the series was completed ; ninety-seventh, thousand in 
1903, Illustrated edition ; Paris, Librairie du Bibliophile (Jouaust), 1884, 

2 vols. crown 8vo, iv-261 and 287 pages; portrait and ten. designs "by 
Ed. Dantan, etched by Duvivier, ornaments by G-iacomelli. Impressions on 
various papers, Dutch, India, Japanese, etc. Another illustrated edition, 
Paris, 1894, with etchings and woodcuts designed by F. TheVenot. 


lie was always lying : and indeed every tMng he wrote, from 
the time of attaining any prominence, was denounced as 
being wholly or in part plagiarism. Even " L'Assommoir " 
was alleged to be merely a crib from Denis Poulot's "Le 
Sublime"; 1 and, briefly, Ms adversaries would not allow 
that he was possessed of a single spark of originality. 

At this time (1878) he had so many irons in the fire, as 
the saying goes, that it is difficult to follow his work in 
strict chronological order. We find him preparing his 
novel " Nana," collecting materials for it, devising its plot ; 
penning theatrical criticisms for "Le Bien Public," con- 
tributing to "Le Voltaire"; planning with Messrs. Bus- 
nach and G-astineau a dramatic version of " L'Assommoir " ; 
and writing a series of papers, chiefly on " Les Ronianciers 
Naturalistes," for the " Viestnik Yevropi " of St. Petersburg. 
One of those papers, a general critique of contemporary 
French novelists, their methods and their abilities, was 
a slashing and in some respects unjust onslaught on all 
who did not conform to the tenets of the Naturalist school. 
It was published by the Russian review in September (1878), 
and a month later was denounced by a Swiss periodical, 
" La Biblioth&que Universelle," which gave a resumt of its 
contents. Such, however, was then the "insularity" of 
France with respect to literary happenings abroad, that 
December arrived before a Parisian journal, "Le Figaro," 
discovered the obnoxious paper and proceeded to rate its 
author. This it did in its most virulent style, borrowing 
for the occasion a variety of slang epithets from the pages 
of "L'Assommoir." And as a crowning stroke Zola was 

1 "Le Sublime, on le Travailleur comme il est et ce qu'il peut tre," 
Paris, Charpentier, 1865. 


accused of arrant cowardice. He did not dare to attack 
Ms contemporaries in the French language and in a French 
journal, it was said; he sought a foreign country and a 
foreign tongue for his venomous outpourings. 

His reply to this accusation was characteristic. He 
offered " Le Figaro " the original French manuscript of his 
article which differed in many respects from the resumt 
issued by the Swiss review and " Le Figaro," which had 
denounced some of his remarks as unprintable, speedily in- 
serted the entire paper in its literary supplement, 1 The 
uproar in literary circles then became terrific. Among 
those whom Zola assailed were Hector Malot, Ferdinand 
Fabre, Octave Feuillet, Victor Cherbuliez, Edmond About, 
Louis Ulbach, Erckmann-Ohatrian, Paul F^val, Jules 
daretie, and Lon Cladel; and it was pointed out that 
the only writers whom he praised or spared were those 
whose works were issued by his own publisher, M. Char- 
pentier ! Of course, said the quidnuncs, he must have been 
paid for this service; M. Charpentier could not have given 
him less than ten thousand francs for his article, though 
if M. Calmann-L^vy, for instance, had offered him twenty 
thousand, he would doubtless have written up that pub- 
lisher's writers instead of abusing them. 

As already mentioned, the article in question was in 
some measure unjust, for it assumed a priori that only the 
Naturalist school of fiction was entitled to live; but at 
the same time it contained some sound criticism. Nobody 
nowadays would deny the proposition that Hector Malot, 
in whom at one time many hopes had centred, never 
produced a really great book ; that Jules Claretie also, in 

1 "Le Figaro," Supplement Litt&aire, December 22, 1878. 


spite of his many undoubted gifts, never rose above the 
second rank as a novelist; that Cladel rendered himself 
ridiculous by the affectation of his style, and that men 
like About and Feuillet had greatly declined at the period 
when Zola wrote. But, naturally enough, these, and all the 
others whom he named, disliked to be told to their faces 
that they had always been or had become inferior men; 
and thus no little wrath was kindled in many directions. 
There was, however, one man who not only showed no 
resentment but unhesitatingly acknowledged his own great 
admiration for Zola's work. And this, strange as it may 
seem, was Octave Feuillet, who freely expressed himself 
in that sense both to his friend, Adrien Marx, and to the 
present writer. The latter had occasion to call upon him 
with respect to one of his last books, and, some general 
conversation on literary matters supervening, Feuillet men- 
tioned Zola, saying that he had at first found it almost 
impossible to read the writings of the Naturalist master, 
but having forced himself to do^so, his feeling of repulsion 
had departed, leaving sympathy and admiration in its place. 
Another famous writer whom Zola attacked even more 
bitterly than he attacked Feuillet, one with whom he had 
many a literary duel Alexandre Dumas fils also ended 
by expressing very kindly sentiments. "My literary stand- 
point," he said to the present writer, "is not the same as 
Zola's. On some matters no agreement between us is possi- 
ble. But he is a strong man ; and," added Dumas bluffly, 
with a momentary flash of the paternal manner, " what I 
particularly like about him is his damned frankness." 1 

1 It was as the Paris correspondent of various English newspapers that 
the writer became acquainted with a good many French literary men. A 


Later, when Zola became a candidate for the French Academy, 
Dumas Jils was one of his most consistent supporters. 1 Jules 
Claretie also evinced an equally forgiving disposition. 

As for Zola, his literary views certainly became more 
liberal as he grew older; but at the period one has now 
reached he was in his most arbitrary and dogmatic mood, 
going so far as to suggest in a pamphlet that each rfyime 
must have its appropriate literature, that Naturalist litera- 
ture alone was suited to the Republic, and that the Republic 
itself must prove Naturalist, or otherwise would assuredly 
collapse. "By Naturalism," said he, "I mean analytical 
and experimental methods based on facts and human docu- 
ments. There must be agreement between the social move- 
ment, which is the cause, and literature, which is the effect. 
If the Republic, blind as to itself, and failing to understand 
that it exists by the force of a scientific formula, should 
begin to persecute that formula in literature, this would 
be a sign that the Republic is not ripe for facts, and that 
it must once again give place to one, that is dictatorship. " 2 

The pamphlet we have quoted was issued early in 1879. 
Some months previously both Gustave Flaubert and Al- 
phonse Daudet, being well acquainted with M. Ag&ior 
Bardoux, an Auvergnat poetaster and politician appointed 
Miiister of Public Instruction, had suggested to him that 
ZoFa, who by " L'Assommoir " had now risen to a con- 
reference to the Paris letters in the first volumes of the " Illustrated Sporting 
and Dramatic News " will show that the writer at one time dealt largely with 
the [French stage. In that connection he was fortunate enough to secure the 
favour of Dumas jits to whom he was indebted for many little kindnesses. 

1 Zola to Yizetelly, November, 1898. 

2 "La B^publique Franchise et la Litte'rature," 8vo, Paris, Charpentier, 
1879. The text of this pamphlet was added by Zola to the collection of 
papers entitled "Le Eoman Experimental," which he issued in 1880. 


spicuous position, ought to be made a knight of the 
Legion of Honour. 1 Daudet, in this matter, was actuated 
by friendship and admiration, and Flaubert deemed him- 
self to be under a great obligation to Zola. It seems 
that while Flaubert was writing his "Bouvard et P^cuchet " 
(which did not appear till after his death), he had often 
spoken of it to his friends in a somewhat mysterious man- 
ner, never actually giving the names of his characters, but 
referring to them merely by their initials, B. and P. Zola 
was then working on "Son Excellence Eug&ne Rougon," 
and one day, when he and Flaubert met at a lunch given 
by M. Charpentier, he mentioned that a capital name had 
occurred to him for one of his characters, this name being 
Bouvard, which, with its suggestion of blotting-paper, was 
certainly a fit appellation for a civil service scribe. It so 
happened such is coincidence that Zola and Flaubert 
proposed to bestow it on much the same type of man ; but 
the former, of course, was quite ignorant of his friend's 
intentions, for Flaubert, restricting himself to the initial 
B., had never allowed the word Bouvard to escape his lips. 
When it fell from Zola's, the author of " Madame Bovary n 
was greatly upset. " He became quite strange," wrote Zola 
on subsequently relating the incident, " and after lunch he 
took me to the bottom of Charpentier's garden, where, with 
a great show of emotion, he implored me to surrender the 
name of Bouvard to Mm. I assented, laughing; but he 
remained very grave, plainly touched, and even declared 
that he would not have persevered with his book if I had 
insisted on using the name. He looked upon his work as 

i Alexis, I. c., p. 190 et se%. ; Adolphe Brisson in (< Le Temps," October 3, 


being entirely in those two names Bouvard and Pdcuchet, 
and could not picture it without them." 1 

Now Flaubert was one of the best-hearted men in the 
world. He regarded Zola's trifling concession as an act of 
great generosity, and it was to mark his sense of it that 
he solicited for his friend the Cross of the Legion of Hon- 
our. Pressed both by Daudet and Flaubert, M. Bardoux 
showed himself very favourably disposed; and when, in 
accordance with usage, he was visited by Zola, he told him 
straightly he would be gazetted on the next National 
Fte-day July 14, 1878. That date came and went, how- 
ever, and Zola's name did not appear in the "Journal 
Officiel" the cross promised to him going, instead, to 
Ferdinand Fabre. Other occasions presented themselves, 
Bardoux was often urged to keep his promise, but as often 
evaded it, and of course when the uproar provoked by 
Zola's paper on his fellow-novelists supervened, it afforded 
a good excuse for shelving the matter altogether. Mean- 
time the affair had become common talk in certain literary 
circles, and Zola, who felt that he was being made ridicu- 
lous, had more than once threatened to fling the cross in 
Bardoux's face if he should eventually tender it. Alexis, 
in recounting the affair, throws virtually all the blame 
on the Minister; but the latter, after various paltry and 
untruthful excuses, which certainly put him in a bad light, 
told Edmond de Goncourt that if he had failed to keep his 
promise it was not his fault, but really that of his colleagues 
in the Government. 2 

It really seems to be the case that the question whether 

1 "Les Romanciers ETaturalistes," p. 204. 

3 "Journal des Goncourt," Vol. VI (January 21, 1879). 


Zola should be decorated was made an affair of State, 
solemnly debated by the Council of Ministers at the Ely- 
se Palace, Marshal MacMahon being in the chair, prob- 
ably with his usual cigar between his lips, and his usual 
bottle of green Chartreuse standing handy on a cheffonnier, 
in order that he might help himself whenever " he felt so 
disposed," which, according to the scandal-mongers of the 
day, was pretty often. And the brave, honest, and narrow- 
minded Marshal, who perhaps at his wife's instigation 
absolutely refused to promote the impious Eenan from the 
rank of chevalier to that of officer of the Legion of Honour, 
was in thorough agreement with all the Ministers who 
opposed the unlucky Bardoux when he asked that the red 
ribbon might be conferred on the obscene Zola. On his 
side, the latter, ignorant of the real circumstances of the 
case, and more and more annoyed by the spiteful allusions 
to the affair which appeared in some of the newspapers, 
issued an open letter formally signifying his renunciation 
of the red ribbon, with the result that for some years there 
was no further question of " decorating " the foremost nov- 
elist of France. 

On January 18, 1879, the Ambigu Theatre gave the first 
performance of the dramatic version of " L'Assommoir " pre- 
pared by Messrs. Busnach and Gastineau, who, in point 
of fact, had been largely assisted by Zola, though his name 
did not appear on the bills, and he allowed all the merit of 
the play's success to be attributed to his colleagues. Gon- 
court tells us that during the rehearsals his melancholy 
mien quite chilled the actors, who by no means anticipated 
a success. 1 While the first performance was in progress 

* "Journal des Goncourt, Vol. VI (January 21, 1878). 


Zola sat reading in tlie manager's private room, and on the 
fall of the curtain Ms friends repaired thither to inform him 
that, apart from a little hissing, everything had gone off 
satisfactorily. Nevertheless, the critics attacked the play, 
an English writer, George Augustus Sala, evincing par- 
ticular distress in a long article which recalled Sarcey's 
customary brief verdict : " That man Zola makes me ill." l 

But all Paris had read " L'Assommoir " as a novel, and 
wished to see it on the stage ; 2 and, besides, even the critics 
could not deny that Madame H^lfene Petit's impersonation 
of the unhappy Gervaise was a great personal triumph. 
Thus crowds flocked to the Theatre de 1'Ambigu, whose 
director, Henri Chabrillat, an ex-journalist and novelist, 
who had commanded the Francs-tireurs de la Presse during 
the Franco-German War, suddenly found himself making 
a fortune. 

In honour of the staff and company of the Ambigu, 
the authors of the play ended by giving a ball at the 
Elys6e Montmartre, which, by the way, figured in Zola's 
story; and Mr. George Moore, the well-known author of 
"A Mummer's Wife" and "Esther Waters," has related 
that his first meeting with Zola of whom he became 
for several years the chief English supporter occurred 
at this particular entertainment. 3 Mr. Moore who had 
then only produced his "Flowers of Passion," and was 
therefore known in Parisian literary and art circles as 
a young poet attended the ball dressed as a Parisian 

1 See Sala's "Paris herself Again, " London, Vizetelly & Co., 1879 et seq. 

2 It will be remembered that Charles Eeade prepared an English version 
entitled " Drink." 

8 "My Impressions of Zola," by George Moore, in "The English Illus- 
trated Magazine," February, 1894 


workman, and was engaged to dance with Gervaise. He 
had no opportunity for conversation when Manet intro- 
duced him to Zola, but he called at M&lan a few weeks 
afterwards, and a close friendship sprang up between Mm 
and the author of " L'Assommoir." Each, however, was 
possessed of strong personal convictions, and, as years 
went by, Zola's life and work gradually took a course of 
which Mr. Moore did not approve, perhaps because as 
admitted by himself he failed to understand it. 

The law of the world is evolution. EJumme abmrde 
est celui gui ne change jamais; and Zola, amid the very 
triumph of " L'Assommoir," at the very moment when 
he was expounding the principles of Naturalism in the 
"Viestnik Yevropi" and "Le Yoltaire" (which he joined 
when "Le Bien Public " ceased publication), was already, 
and quite unconsciously, perhaps, undergoing a change. 
He was in some degree carried away by the sudden acces- 
sion of ample means after years of poverty and years of 
battle. In the long run he showed himself superior to 
fortune, whether it were favourable or adverse, but he found 
its first smile irresistible, as so often happens with those 
who have long toiled and suffered and cursed their fate. 
Briefly, he proved no exception to the general rule; and 
he was taunted with having failed to depart from it, 
being candidly told in print that, like Herbert Spencer and 
Gustave Flaubert, he ought to have been quite content 
with mere lodging-house surroundings, and that he made 
a ridiculous use of his comparative wealth. 

Most of his money, it may be mentioned, was lavished 
on his property at Mdan, to which he made many addi- 
tions, building, for instance, a large square tower in which 


he fitted up a spacious workroom, whose huge window 
suggested that of a studio. In that room in later years 
most of his "books were written. And as wealth accrued 
a second large tower was added to the first, followed by 
some smaller ones flanking the entrance of the property. 
All this was denounced as had taste ; and unquestionably, 
from an architectural point of view, M4dan, with one bit 
of building added here and another there, became a strange- 
looking place. At the same time it remains an interest- 
ing memorial of the rise of Zola's fortunes. One knows, 
for instance, that the first tower was built with money 
derived from " L'Assommoir," that the second was erected 
with some of the proceeds of "Nana," that this and that 
enlargement were paid for by " La Terre " or " La DdMcle." 
Certainly no common parvenu would have left such a 
tell-tale record. It is doubtful whether he would have 
been content to dwell during the greater part of the year 
in an out-of-the way village like M^dan ; and even had he 
retained possession of the property he would surely have 
demolished the original humble little house and have 
erected some grand Louis Treize cMteau on the site. 

But another charge preferred against Zola was that he 
wasted time and money in collecting works of art and 
curios the latter more often than the former. In his 
novel, " L'CEuvre," he gave an explanation of this which is 
worth quoting: 

" His [Sandoz's, otherwise Zola's] drawing-room was becoming 
crowded with old furniture, old tapestry, nick-nacks of all coun- 
tries and all times an overflowing torrent of things which had 
begun at Batignolles with an old pot of Eouen ware, which Hen- 
riette [Madame Zola] had given her husband on one of his f&te 


days. They ran about the curiosity shops together ; they felt a 
joyful passion for buying ; and he now satisfied the old longings 
of his youth, the romanticist aspirations which the first books he 
had read had engendered. Thus this writer, who was so fiercely 
modern, lived amid the worm-eaten middle ages which he had 
dreamt of when he was a lad of fifteen. As an excuse, he laugh- 
ingly declared that handsome modern furniture cost too much, 
whereas with old things, even common ones, you immediately ob- 
tained some effect and colour. There was nothing of fhe collector 
about Jiim, his one concern was decoration, broad effects; and to 
tell the truth, the drawing-room, lighted by two lamps of old 
Delft ware, derived quite a soft, warm tone from the dull gold of 
the dalmaticas used for upholstering the seats, the yellowish incrus- 
tations of the Italian cabinets and Dutch show-cases, the faded 
hues of the Oriental door-hangings, the hundred little notes of 
the ivory, the crockery and the enamel work, pale with age, 
which showed against the dull red hangings." 1 

No doubt, among the great quantity of tapestry, carved 
wood, old furniture, pottery, church embroideries, and so 
forth, which Zola thus gathered together, there were oc- 
casionally things which did not suggest the best taste or 
the greatest accuracy of judgment. But the statement 
quoted above shows that he disclaimed collecting in the 
ordinary sense, and made purchases solely for decorative 
purposes. And, in any case, even if lie bought a few 
things whose only recommendation was their quaintness, 
or accepted an object as genuine when an expert would 
have known it to be spurious, his transgressions in those 
matters were of no importance to the world at large, and 
one is surprised that some of his " candid friends " should 
have thought it worth while to expatiate on them. 


L'CEuvre," p. 435. 


It has been urged, however, that directly money came 
to Zola, instead of yielding to a desire for comfort, he ought 
to have devoted himself to travel and study, and particu- 
larly have restrained his literary output He would have 
derived henefit from foreign travel undoubtedly, but his 
self-set task of the Rougon-Macquart series long riveted 
him to France. As for study, he was always studying, 
books as well as men, and Mr. George Moore's suggestion 
that he had little acquaintance with the heart of French 
literature 1 was erroneous, for abundant proof of the con- 
trary will be found in the eight volumes of his collected 
essays and articles. These also show that he kept abreast 
of the literature of Ms time, and all his friends are aware 
that new books and literary periodicals, to say nothing of 
a profusion of newspapers, encompassed him during the last 
twenty years of his life. But, in a large degree, he cer- 
tainly set the literature of the past behind him, regarding 
it as being chiefly of historical value. And whether he 
were right or wrong in that matter, it must be obvious 
that his attitude was in keeping with his character as an 
evolutionist. In a word, he was more concerned respecting 
the future of literature than respecting its antecedents. 

But it has been said that a change began to appear in 
Zola about the time of " I/Assommoir," and the change 
we more particularly mean is that by which the novelist 
expanded into a reformer. As scores of his newspaper 
articles, collected and uncollected, testify, the injustice of 
the social system had always been manifest to him. With 
the degradation of many individual lives he was well ac- 
quainted. His own rise to affluence made him yet more 

i "JEnglMi Illustrated Magazine," L c. 


conscious of the difference "between the rich and the poor. 
His descent into the mire of life, to seek there his Cou- 
peau, his Lantier, and his Gervaise, left on his mind some 
impress of the horror which he imparted to others. And 
thus, with him, art no longer remained art for art's sake 
only, a broad humanitarianism gradually entered into his 
literary conceptions. 

At the outset the novelist and the reformer were cer- 
tainly more or less at variance. The cuisine of politics still 
remained distasteful to Zola, and he is often found protest- 
ing that he is merely a literary man and does not wish to 
intervene in passing events. But as the years elapse the 
reforming instinct becomes more and more powerful, gathers 
increased strength from such works as "Germinal" and 
"La Terre," till at last the humanitarian feeling, triumph- 
ing over everything else, trampling unrestrained upon all 
literary canons, finds voice in "Lourdes" and "Paris/' 
"Pdcondit6" and "Travail," and at a supreme moment 
impels Zola to champion the chosen victim of Roman 
Catholic fanaticism and military infallibility. 

At an early stage of his gradual transformation he is seen 
defining the novelist as an exponent, an analyst, a dissector 
of human life. His work is to be accomplished in strict 
accordance with science, and the methods of the great 
scientist, Claude Bernard, arej held up to him as examples. 
This idea of "le Roman Experimental," as Zola finally 
called the scientific fiction he expounded, had long haunted 
him; but when he wished to give it really adequate ex- 
pression he was momentarily at a loss as to where he might 
find the most forcible and most modern exposition of scien- 
tific principles and methods. It was his friend M. Yves 


Guyot, a many-sided mm, then only a journalist, later a 
Minister of State, and now eminent as a political economist, 
who recommended him to study Claude Bernard. 1 On that 
study Zola based one of the most famous of his essays. 
Science, which appeals so little to some minds, particu- 
larly literary minds of the average calibre, is really the 
greatest humanitarian agency we possess. The man who 
experiments, the man who dissects, does not do so for 
mere pleasure; his aim is the increase and diffusion of 
knowledge, the benefit of the world, the advantage of his 
fellowmen. That which is learnt in the laboratory, the 
workshop, the operating room is put to use in a thousand 
ways. In physiological and medical science the work may 
often be very repulsive, yet it reveals the causes of many 
flaws and ailments, and points to the means of cure. A 
similar aim became Zola's as he proceeded with his novels. 
He made it his purpose to inquire into all social sores, all 
the imperfections and lapses of collective and individual 
life that seemed to him to require remedying. That every- 
thing should be made manifest in order that everything 
might be healed, such w^s the motto he adopted. 

Yet in the first instance he did not preach, he did not 
denounce ; he contented himself with stating the facts ; he 
confined himself to analysis, dissection, and demonstration, 
and he used the novel as his vehicle, because the novel 
alone appealed to the great majority of people to whom it 
was necessary that the facts should be made patent if any 
remedy were to be applied. 

1 So stated by M. Yves Guyot in conversation with the writer and others 
in the autumn of 1902. It ought to have "been mentioned that it was M. 
Griiyot who engaged Zola as dramatic critic of " Le Bien Public." See ante, 
* 156. 








But the prejudiced, the purblind, and the foolish, the 
hundreds of so-called critics who had glanced at his noyels 
but had never perused a line of the essays in which he 
enunciated his principles, responded by accusing him of a 
degraded partiality for filth, of wallowing in mire, because 
such was his favourite element. The sensation created by 
" L' Assommoir " had been great, that which attended the 
production of "Nana" was perhaps greater. 

Much of the year 1878 was spent by Zola in making 
preparations for that book. Incredible as it may seem, his 
critics have actually reproached him for his previous igno- 
rance of the "successful" Parisian courtesan. His know- 
ledge of her had certainly been limited to her out-door life ; 
like others he had seen her, elbowed her at the theatres, 
in the Bois, and at other places of public resort. That was 
all. He therefore applied to friends and acquaintances for 
information, Edmond de Goncourt, who had repeatedly 
dined at the table of La Paiva l before she became the wife 
of Henckel von Donnersmarck, gave him a variety of in- 
formation; Ludovic HaWvy initiated him into the demi- 

1 This woman had an extraordinary career. She was of German origin, 
her real name being Theresa Lachmann, but she was bom in Russia, and 
first married a French tailor of Moscow, named Villoing. After eloping with 
Herz, the well-known pianist, she entered the Parisian demi-monde under the 
auspices of the notorious Esther Guimond. Finding herself in difficulties 
she proceeded to London, fascinated and half-ruined a member of an English 
ducal house, returned to Paris, ruined several French nobles there, and ulti- 
mately married Yiscount Armijo de Paiva of the Portuguese Legation, whom 
she also ruined and who committed suicide. Though her beauty, whieh had 
been great, was then fading, she captivated Count Henckel von Donnersmarck, 
a connection of the Bismarck family, and he ended by marrying her. She 
lived in a magnificent mansion in the Champs Elyse'es adorned by Baudry, 
Cabanel, Ger6me, and Cl^singer; and Girardin, Gautier, About, Ponsard, 
Augier, Houssaye, and Goncourt were familiars of her drawing-room. She 
died in 1884 on her husband's estate in Silesia. 


mondaine side of theatrical life, to which, given all his 
intercourse with Hortense Schneider, Zulma Bouffar, and 
others, he was the most competent of guides; men of 
fashion, who had wasted their best years and much of their 
money among the harlots of the Second Empire, told him 
tales of their experiences ; he visited the house of one belle 
impnre from basement to attic, and he supped at the house 
of another. Of the lower-class unfortunate he had, perforce, 
seen a good deal during his bohemian years in the Quartier 
Latin, and all observers of women of that category are 
aware that in most cases, though they may acquire some 
superficial polish on rising to wealth, their real natures 
undergo little change. 

Zola's enemies naturally imputed the writing of " Nana " 
to his partiality for vice and scandal; but those who are 
acquainted with *'L'A&sommoir" will recognise that, in such 
a series as " Les Rougon-Macquart," a study of the courtesan 
was the necessary corollary of the study on drink and the 
general degradation of the working class. It is from such 
homes as those of Coupeau and Gervaise that spring nine- 
tenths of the unhappy creatures so grimly denominated 
filks de joie. Nana's childhood and youth had already 
been recounted in " L'Assommoir," and it was certain that 
Zola would not leave her there. How could he picture the 
degenerescence of a period if he omitted the harlot, who 
had played people hardly seem to recognise it nowadays 
such a prominent, such a commanding part, during the 
years when Napoleon III. dallying himself with La 
Castiglione, La Bellanger, and a dozen others, while his 
cousin Prince Napoleon J&r6me kept the notorious Cora 
Pearl had transformed the proud city of Paris into the 


brothel of Europe ? Again, scores of Zola's contemporaries, 
writers of various degrees, by trying to poetise the courtesan, 
had increased her influence a hundred-fold, and the time had 
come to check her encroachments by exhibiting her in her 
true colours, with all her vulgarity, her greed, her degrada- 
tion, her shamelessness and heartlessness. 

In September, 1879, when Zola had written about half of 
" Nana," he arranged with M. Laffitte, editor of " Le Voltaire/' 
which was then publishing his articles on " scientific fiction/ 1 
to produce the story in that newspaper; and M. Laffitte 
at once advertised it in a fashion worthy of Barnum himself. 
Huge posters appeared on all the walls of Paris, "dis- 
played " announcements invaded the newspapers, sandwich 
men patrolled the streets, ticket-advertisements were even 
affixed to the gutta-percha tubes of the pipe-lights in the 
tobacconists* shops ; and, indeed, upon every side one found 
the imperious injunction : Read Nana ! Nana ! ! Nana ! 1 1 1 
All this greatly vexed Zola, who had shut himself up at 
MMan to finish the book, and who did not at all desire 
to be advertised in such an extravagant fashion. To make 
matters worse, the serial issue had scarcely commenced 
(October 16, 1879) when several newspapers began to 
discuss the story, all the quidnuncs demonstrating by A 
plus B that the opening chapter was not at all such as it 
ought to be, and that the work was bound to prove a failure. 
Then, too, letters full of suggestions or criticism or denun- 
ciation rained upon Zola at Mdan, putting his nerves to 
the severest test. Nevertheless, he worked on steadily, 
taking the greatest care over even the most trifling details, 
employing a friend to obtain precise information on such 
i Alexis, 1. c., p. 118. 


matters as phaetons and tandems, the decorations of Ma- 
bille, the aspect of the rooms on the top-floor of the Grand 
Hotel, the view from them, and the facial mask of a woman 
dying (as !NTana died) from small-pox. 1 

As the publication proceeded in " Le Voltaire " the com- 
plaints became more numerous. A good many people pro- 
fessed to be shocked ; Gambetta presently complained to the 
editor that the story was "too strong"; and the editor 
requested Zola's permission to curtail or omit certain pas- 
sages. This was accorded, the latter half of the work 
appearing in "Le Voltaire" in a bowdlerized form. On 
January 2, 1880, Zola started on the fourteenth and last 
chapter, and on January 7 he completed it "Let me tell 
you a great piece of news," he wrote to a Mend that day, 
" I finished c Nana ' this morning. . . , What relief I Never 
did any previous work of mine upset me as this has done. 
At present let it be worth what it may, it has ceased to 
exist for me. ... I write to you in the joy of deliverance. 
My last chapter seems to me to be the most weird and 
successful thing I have ever written." 2 

1 Mr. R. H. Sherard in his " $mile Zola : a Biographical and Critical Study," 
London, 1903, prints several of Zola's letters on the above subjects. The 
following may be given as a specimen : "Me* dan, September 18, 1879 : I have 
received your book on small-pox. That will evidently suffice for my purpose. 
I will devise a death mask by comparing the various documents. I am very 
much tempted to make the disease black pox which, in point of horror, is 
the strangest. Only I admit that if without taking too much, trouble you 
could manage to see the corpse of a person who had died of that complaint 
I say, that is a nice little task I you would oblige me greatly. ... In that 
case mind you supply full details about the state of the eyes, nose and mouth, 
giving me a precise geographical chart, from which, of course, I should only 
take what I may need." This suggestion was not acted upon. In. describing 
Nana's death Zola eventually had to rely on the statements he found in 
medical works. 

2 Sherard, Z. c., p. 171. 


A few weeks later, that is on February 15, " 
appeared in "book form, the passages omitted from "Le 
Voltaire" being reinstated in the text Large orders 
having been received from various parts of the world, M. 
Charpentier had ordered fifty-five thousand copies to be 
printed; but on the very day of publication he found it 
necessary to order ten thousand more. 1 In the case of 
"Nana," as in that of " L 3 Assommoir," the public gave no 
heed to the critics, who, of course, raised their customary 
protests. In certain matters of detail their objections 
were well founded. Zola had made a few mistakes in 
dealing with some of the minutice of theatrical and 
turf life/ and, as" Madame Edmond Adam remarked 
in the "Nouvelle Revue" and as the author himself 
subsequently admitted Nana was shown accomplishing 
in few years what, in actual life, would have taken a 
woman much longer to accomplish. That, however, was 
forced upon Zola by the scheme of his series, the incidents 
recorded in which had to occur between the years 1852 and 
1870. 2 When all is said, taking "Nana" in its ensemble, it 
was certainly the most truthful picture ever traced of the 

1 "Fana," Paris, Charpentier, 1880, 18mo, 528 pages; one hundred and 
sixty-sixth, thcmsand on sale in 1893 ; one hundred and ninety-eighth thou- 
sand in 1903 ; some special copies on Japan, India, and Dutch papers. 
Illustrated edition: Marpon and Flammarion, n. d. "but 1882, large 8vo 
titles, 456 pages, with sixty-six wood engravings after Bertall, Gill, Bel- 
lenger, Olairin, etc. A hundred copies printed oil Dutch paper with impres- 
sions of the engravings on India paper, and a special frontispiece showing 
Nana on a sofa. The ordinary copies of the illustrated edition were priced at 
6 francs, "but were also sold very largely in fifty-seven parts at 10 centimes. 
From 1882 to the present time ( 1903 ) over two hundred thousand copies of the 
illustrated edition have been sold, bringing the total sales of the work ( apart 
from translations) to nearly half a million copies. 

2 See his explanations on this subject in the preface to E. A. Yizetelly's 
translation of "Le Doeteur Pascal," London, Chatto, 1893 et seq. 


so-called Parisian world of pleasure in Imperial times. Of 
course the boot was denounced as immoral. The Parisian 
smart set shrieked loudly; many a Boulevardian journal- 
ist, whose looseness of life was notorious, perorated in club 
and caf6 respecting the amazing depravity of that man 
Zola ; and in addition to abusive newspaper articles, there 
again came scurrilous pamphlets and parodies after the 
fashion of those which had followed " L'Assommoir." 

Zola did not reply immediately ; but in 1881, when 
** Nana " had been dramatised, he contributed a few articles 
to "Le Figaro" on the subject, besides penning a longer 
paper on " Immorality in Literature," in which he contended 
that writers of the Idealist school made vice all roses and 
rapture, whereas the Naturalists made it repulsive. And he 
was absolutely convinced, he said, that far more heads had 
been turned, more young men and girls and women led 
into dangerous courses, by the works of George Sand, Octave 
Feuillet, Barbey d*Aurnlly, and even Sir Walter Scott, than 
by the writings of Flaubert, Balzac, Goncourt, and their fol- 
lowers. As for " Nana," said he, it had given offence be- 
cause it was a true picture, and therefore spoilt the pleasure 
of the mveurs of Paris, who wished to see everything couleur 
de rose beneath a cloud of poudre-de-riz?- 

In 1880, after the publication of "Nana," Zola wrote 
several short stories. He had published one, " Nais Micou- 
lin," in a paper called " La K&f orme/* towards the close of 
the previous year; and he now gave "La Fte & Coqrieville," 
"LTnondation," and "Nantas," to "Le Yoltaire," to which 
journal -he also contributed some papers on Th^ophile Gau~ 
tier, Ste.-Beuve, and others. But a better known publica- 

1 " Documents Litteraires," p. 375 & ^. 


tion in which, he was interested appeared during the spring. 
This was the collection of stories called "Les Soirees de 
M&lan," 1 to which Zola contributed his well-known tale, 
" I/ Attaque du Moulin," which he had previously published 
in Eussia, and which subsequently provided his friend M. 
Alfred Bruneau with the subject for an opera. Nowadays 
in its form as a story " L' Attaque du Moulin n has become 
a reading book in many French and English schools. 

As mentioned in a previous chapter, five younger writ- 
ers, Alexis, Huysmans, Maupassant, C4ard, and Hennique, 
had gathered round Zola, whose literary views they largely 
shared. 3 Each of them contributed to the so-called " Soirees 
de M4dan," the preface of which stated: "The following 
stories have been published previously, some in France, 
others abroad. It has seemed to us that they have sprung 
from one and the same idea, that their philosophy is identi- 
cal. "We therefore unite them. We are prepared for all the 
attacks, the bad faith, and the ignorance of which current 
criticism has already given us so many examples. Our only 
concern has been to affirm publicly what are really our 
friendships and our literary tendencies." 

At that time, of the six: writers responsible for that pref- 
ace, only Zola had acquired a position ; and such a solemn 
manifesto seemed therefore somewhat presumptuous, the 
more particularly as, apart from Zola's tale, the only other 

1 The first edition (Charpentier, 18mo, 301 pages ) was accompanied by 
ten copies on India and fifty on Dutch paper. There was a special edition in 
1890, small 8vo, 807 pages, six portraits etched by Fernand Desmoulin, and 
six illustrations etched by Muller after Jeanniot. Of this edition one copy was 
printed on Japan paper with three sets of the etchings ; one copy on parchment 
with two sets of the etchings before lettering; and sixteen on Dutch paper 
with two sets of the etchings, both before and after lettering. 

3 See ante, p. 162v 


of real merit in the book was Guy de Maupassant's. For 
him, so far as the book-reading public was concerned, " Les 
Soirees de M&lan " proved virtually a dfbut, whose promise 
his subsequent writings confirmed. " Boule de Suif," as he 
called his contribution to the volume, was the tale of a 
woman, who is shown sacrificing herself, during the Franco- 
German War, for the convenience and safety of others. 
They entreat her in that sense, and yet as soon as they 
are free they spurn her and abandon her to her shame. 
This woman, like the other people figuring in the story, 
actually lived, 1 and indeed it would be difficult to find half 
a dozen really imaginary characters in all Guy de Maupas- 
sant's tales. He carried the passion for personalities even 
farther than Alphonsa Daudet did, and there exists, it is 
said, a set of his writings, on the margins of which he 
himself wrote the real names of almost every person and 
locality he ever described. One may conclude that he was 
perhaps a more genuine Naturalist than Zola, his work 
being invariably based on "human documents," the fruit 
of personal observation and experience. This occasionally 
tended to make his art unduly photographic; but, at the 
same time, as is well known, his literary style was excel- 

1 Her real name was Adrienne Legay and she really bore the nickname of 
** Ball of Tallow." She was of peasant extraction, and was born near Fecamp 
about 1850. Coming to Eouen, where she became the mistress of a cavalry 
officer and later of a manufacturer of cotton goods, she at one time kept 
a small hosiery shop, at another a little cafe". Finally, after making a 
precarious liTing as a fortune-teller, she committed suicide at Eouen in 
August, 1892. She often declared to the literary men who became ac- 
quainted with her that she herself gave Maupassant the idea of his story 
by telling him an adventure of hers, which, however, had not resulted in the 
manner he described ; and she accused him of having pilloried her in a spirit 
of revenge for having rejected his suit when he was a penniless hobbledehoy 
at Boueru 


lent, and from that standpoint some of Ms tales are un- 
doubtedly masterpieces of their kind. 

Unfortunately there was insanity in Guy de Maupassant's 
family, which was old, of good nobility, but limited means. 
His father, who had been a painter and had played a 
prominent part in founding a famous Paris art club, had 
died in a lunatic asylum. The same fate befel his brother ; 
and, according to some accounts, there was insanity on his 
mother's side also. In any case, from birth onward a 
dreadful threat hung over Guy de Maupassant, and the life 
he led from the time he became his own master was not 
calculated to ward off the danger. He was a man of the 
strongest passions, a beau male, as the French say; and 
women began the work which absinthe, opium, and morphia 
completed. At last, still young in years, at the height of 
his celebrity, he attempted his life, and was only saved 
from immediate death to languish awhile in an asylum. 
One cannot think of him, as of some others, without feeling 
the force of the contention that very little may at times 
separate genius from insanity. 

Immediately " Les Soirdes de Mdan " appeared, its con- 
tributors were chaffed by the newspapers for attributing 
undue importance to themselves ; and Zola was said to be 
bringing up these young men in leading-strings for the 
express advancement of his literary theories. A rather 
acrimonious controversy ensued, Zola repeatedly declaring 
that he was not, and did not wish to be, a chef d'Scole, and 
that those with whom he was associated were his friends and 
not his disciples. But the discussion suddenly ceased, for 
the literary world of Paris was startled by the unexpected 
news of Gustave Flaubert's death at Croisset, near Eouen. 



During the previous Easter (March, 1880) the veteran 
author had received Daudet, Zola, Charpentier, Maupassant, 
and Goncourt at his country place, and Groncourt has related 
in his "Journal" how thoroughly they enjoyed Flaubert's 
paternal hospitality, and how on Easter Monday they lin- 
gered in Rouen, ferreting among old curiosity shops, playing 
billiards, and planning a diner fin at the principal hotel 
When, however, they wished to give their order, consterna- 
tion fell on them : it was a holiday ; all the provision shops 
were closed, the hotel larder was virtually empty, and the 
diner fin resolved itself into veal cutlets and cheese. That 
amusing experience was still in Zola's mind when, on 
May 8, he received at M6dan this laconic telegram from 
Maupassant : " Flaubert dead." Dead and they had left 
Mm so gay and so full of life and health ! Zola was pro- 
foundly attached to Flaubert, and the tidings quite un- 
manned him. On May 11 he started for Le Croisset and 
attended the "funeral, of which he has left a deeply interest- 
ing account, instinct with all the grief of one who has lost 
a near and dear friend. In these later years various English 
versions of some of Flaubert's books have been published, 
but, so far as the present writer is aware, no editor or 
publisher has thought of utilising Zola's account of Flaubert 
as an introduction to a translation. Yet that account is 
perhaps Zola's best work as an essayist, full of interest, 
and much of it admirable in tone and style. One may say, 
too, that anybody wishing to form an accurate opinion of 
G-ustave Flaubert, both as a writer and as a man, cannot 
do better than read the hundred pages which Zola devoted 
to him in his "Romanciers Naturalistes." 

But another blow fell on Zola in 1880. In October his 


mother, long ailing and crippled, passed away at M4dan. 
Various painful circumstances attended the death and the 
funeral; and Goncourt, writing at the end of the year, 
pictures Zola as having become a perfect hypochondriac 
in consequence of this loss. He complained of all sorts of 
ailments, kidney disease and palpitations of the heart, talked 
of his own death as being near at hand, and feared that he 
would not have time to finish anything. Briefly, " he was 
filling the world with his name, his books were selling by 
the hundred thousand, no other author, perhaps, had ever 
created such a stir, and yet he felt profoundly miserable." 1 

About the time when his mother died his articles on 
" scientific fiction," previously issued, some in " Le Voltaire " 
and others in the " Viestnik Yevropi," were republished in 
a volume. 2 One of them had greatly offended Laffitte, the 
editor of "Le Voltaire," who being mixed up in sundry 
transactions with some of Gambetta's satellites, resented 
Zola's caustic allusions to them. Nor was an article on 
some scandal occasioned by the erotic publications of the 
" Gil Bias " to his liking. He ended by accusing his con- 
tributor of defending obscenity and of treating public men 
with disrespect. A rupture followed. Zola castigated 
Laffitte in a foot-note to one of the incriminated articles 
when he reissued them in a book, and turned to "Le 
Figaro," which gave him all liberty to defend his ideas. 
He then began a series of articles, republished in a volume 
the following year under the title of "Une Campagne." 3 

1 "Journal des Goncourt," YoL VI, p. 127. 

2 "Le Eoman Experimental," Paris, Charpentier, 1880, 18mo, vii-416 
pages. This volume, in which the whole theory of Naturalistic fiction is 
expounded, has been reprinted several times with the mention : " Nouvelle 

8 "Une Campagne," Paris, Charpentier, 1881, 18mo, x-408 pages. 


They dealt with a great variety of subjects, political, liter- 
ary, and social, and show how wide was the interest which 
Zola took in the affairs of his time. One of them on Victor 
Hugo and his poem "L'Ane" caused a sensation, for most 
people deemed it positive sacrilege to attack the greatest 
literary glory of the age. The uproar was even heard 
across the channel, and Mr. Swinburne, who admired 
"L'Ane," and held Zola to be mere "stench," manifested 
particular indignation. But a quarter of a century has 
elapsed since then, and it is a question whether many 
people would be inclined nowadays to regard "L'Ane" as 
a great poem. In a sense, Zola's attack was unkind, but 
it was essentially one on fetish worship, on the habit of 
kvishing indiscriminate praise on everything, good, bad, 
or indifferent, that might come from the pen of a writer of 
eminence. Let us remember that there has never yet been 
a poet of whom one might say his every line is a master- 
piece. Homer nodded, so did Hugo, and so has even Mr. 
Swinburne himself. 

Some of Zola's articles in "Le Figaro" dealt with his 
own work; others with that of his friends Goncourt, Huys- 
mans, Maupassant, and Daudet; but several were political 
attacks on Gambetta and so forth, written in the same 
spirit which had prompted the article on Hugo. Gambetta, 
as will be remembered, had now (1880-1881) reached the 
crisis of his life. The Tunisian debt scandal, the frauds 
of the Union G6n&ale, a Catholic bank established with 
the papal blessing for the purpose of wresting financial 
power from the Jews, were associated by some folk with 
his "great ministry." Besides, his proposals for changing 
the electoral system, his patronage of reactionary generals, 


able men, it must be admitted, divided the Republican 
party. He was accused, too, of acting as a drag, of checking 
the progress of the democracy, of sacrificing principles to 
personal interest. He had certainly become somewhat 
sluggish so far as measures were concerned, and, as Zola 
put it, he seemingly imagined that orations sufficed for 
everything. "It was not his actions which gave him his 
position, but his phrases," Zola wrote. "He has always 
defeated his adversaries by phrases. He has acquired 
authority by phrases. ... If there be any question of 
taking a forward step he makes a speech. If there be a 
question of warding off a danger he makes a speech. If 
there be a question of making his authority felt he again 
makes a speech. He speechifies without a break, and all 
over the country." 1 

Later, after Gambetta had come into conflict with Ms 
constituents, and the elections of 1881 had shown that the 
so-called Opportunist cause was seriously compromised, 
Zola returned to the attack, and one may the more appro- 
priately quote a passage from his article called " Drunken 
Slaves/' as it shows how deftly he profited by an oppor- 
tunity to defend Ms literary cause while dealing with a 
political subject. Before giving that passage, however, it 
is as well to explain that Gambetta, having encountered a 
hostile reception at an electoral meeting at Charonne, had 
completely lost his head. Threatening his adversaries 
(all working-men) with his walking stick he shouted to 
them furiously : " Silence, you squallers ! silence, you 
brawlers! , . . You pack of drunken slaves, I will track 
you to your lairs I " And as if this were not sufficient, his 
1 "Une Campagne," Gambetta, p. 105. 


newspaper, "La K^publique !Franaise," added in its next 
issue such choice epithets as: "Cowards, incapables, pros- 
titutes* bullies, jail-birds, and pot-house loafers." All who 
might not vote for the great man having been thus stigma- 
tised in advance, it might be assumed when Gambetta, in 
lieu of his usual great majority, polled only 9,404 votes 
against 8,799, that about half the electorate was given over 
to drink, crime, and depravity. Taking this as his text 
Zola wrote as follows: 

" The figures on either side are nearly equal, so it is established 
that at Belleville and Charonne one of every two citizens is never 
sober. * . . Yes, one half of the masses is composed of brawlers, 
drunkards, and cowards. M. Gambetta said to them : * We will 
see which side is the most numerous ' ; and they have seen. Of 
20,000 citizens 10,000 are drunken slaves . . . 10,000 drunken 
slaves ! The figures make me thoughtful. I remember a novelist 
who wrote a novel called * L'Assommoir/ It was a conscientious 
study of the ravages caused by drink among the working classes 
of Paris* It was instinct with pity and affection, it solicited 
mercy for womanhood and for childhood, it showed labour van- 
quished by sloth and alcohol, it begged for air and light and 
instruction for the unhappy poor, more social comfort, and less 
political agitation. Now do you know in what fashion M, 
Gambetta's friends and newspapers greeted that book? They 
denounced it as an evil action, a crime. They dragged its author 
through the mire. . . . Pamphlets did not suffice them, they 
even delivered lectures, and declared publicly that the author 
had insulted the people of Paris. They would have hanged him 
had they been able, in the hope that by so doing they might 
secure a hundred additional votes at the next elections. Tes, it 
was so. M. Gambetta's friends and newspapers were then all 
tenderness for the people. M. Gambetta had invariably secured 
a large majority at Belleville, and it was consequently impossible 
that there could be a single tippler among those who dwelt on 
the sacred mount of the democracy . . . What ! a paltry novelist 


dared to insinuate that there were dram-shops in the faubourgs/ 
The man lied, he insulted M. Gambetta's electors, he could only 
be a scoundrel. To the cess-pool with him, sweep him away! 
And all the hounds who were waiting for their master to toss 
them a hone, all the curs who lived on the crumbs from his table, 
executed his orders, and sprang, snarling, after the unlucky 
writer. . . . Ah ! I laugh. There suddenly comes a change. . . . 
The masses, whose evolution never ceases, grow tired of M. 
Gambetta, accuse him of acting contrary to his programme, of 
seeking personal enjoyment, of waxing fat in the seat of power 
and keeping none of his most express promises, . . . And on the 
day when they hoot him, he is maddened by rage, he forgets that 
the Eancs and the Floquets have vouched for the temperance of 
Belleville, and he furiously calls the electors drunken slaves ! All 
brawlers, and all sots ! 

" Now the author of * L'Assommoir * had not insulted them. He 
had never called them squallers or cowards, nor, in particular, had 
he threatened to track them to their lairs. ... He was less severe : 
he pitied them. . . . Leave the literary men in peace then, you 
political gentlemen, you majestic humbugs, who prate with your 
tongues in your cheeks, and yet wish to be respected ! You can 
see now how shameful it was to heap insults upon a peaceable 
writer whose one concern was truth, to hunt him down as if he 
had been a common malefactor, and this solely by way of electoral 
advertisement ; for directly an obstacle is offered to your own 
ambition, you rush upon the masses to suppress them, whereas 
the novelist only spoke of curing them. . . . And you, good 
people, go and vote for all those humbugs who, so long as you 
work for their benefit, promise to give you jam ! You are great, 
you are noble, and if a passer-by ventures to advise you to 
work, those humbugs declare it to be sacrilege, and hasten to 
immolate him before you, to prove to you that you are indeed 
perfect. But on the day when you refuse to be duped any 
longer, when you claim the jam tjiey have so often promised, 
they turn round on you and insult you, call you drunken slaves, 
and threaten to have you shot down in your lairs ! With a 
fine show of indignation they formerly denied that My-Boots 
existed ; but, all at once, if they are to be credited, it is actually 

Mj-Boots who reigns as King over a Belleville of brawlers and 

The foregoing extracts will give some idea of the passion- 
ate vigour which Zola occasionally displayed in controversy. 
To some readers it may seem beside the mark to dwell at 
length upon a series of newspaper articles like " Une Oam- 
pagne/* but it is in such writings, more than in the majority 
of his novels, that one finds the real Zola with his superb 
confidence in himself, his disregard for conventionalities, 
and his glowing passion for truth and rectitude. His pen 
was certainly not always so virulent as in the passages one 
has quoted, but it was almost invariably incisive, and when 
treating sociological subjects it showed that, however im- 
personal Ms novels might be, his heart really bled at the 
thought of the degradation he described in them. Looking 
back, it seems extraordinary that for so many years his 
critics, and particularly foreign ones, and among them nota- 
bly those of England and America, should have persisted 
in the ridiculous assertion that if he pictured filth, it was 
solely in order to pander to readers of gross instincts. 
His articles, his declarations, his explanations, were all 
before the world, and easily accessible ; but through care- 
lessness, or laziness, or ignorance, the great majority of 
English and American critics never turned to them, and 
the legend of the filthy Zola, whose favourite habitat was 
the muck heap or the cesspool, spread upon all sides. 

The humanitarian purpose, the reforming instinct that 
is to be found in Zola, appears clearly in some of the 

1 "Tine Campagne,** Abbreviated from the article entitled "Esclaves 
Ivres," p, 362 et . Headers of "I/Assommoir" will remember that the 
bibulous " My-Boots," referred to above, is one of its principal characteri. 


articles contained in " Une I Campagne." The meaning of 
" L'Assommoir " is indicated in the passages that have been 
quoted here, and light is thrown on some of his subse- 
quent works, such as " Nana " and " Pot-Bouille," by the 
papers entitled: "The Harlot on the Stage," "How the 
Girls grow up," "Adultery in the Middle Classes," " Virtuous 
"Women," and "Divorce and Literature.*' Some of those 
articles were written apropos of the performance of " Nana," 
which was dramatised by M. Busnach in conjunction with 
Zola (whose name, however, did not appear on the bills) 
and produced at the Ambigu on January 29, 1881. Zola 
tells us there had been no little trouble with the theatrical 
censors, who, when the play was submitted to them in 
manuscript, deleted the word " night 1 * wherever it appeared, 
and wished to strike out in its entirety the chief scene 
between Nana and Count Muffat a scene of temptation 
such as had been given in a score of earlier plays. What 
particularly alarmed the censors, according to Zola, was 
Nana's consent, the "yes" with which the scene ended; 
they wished to substitute some such answer as, " Well, we 
will see," which would have been ridiculous. 

Edmond de G-oncourt says that the audience at the first 
performance was on the whole favourably inclined; but 
Zola points out that it was composed of two distinct 
elements, on one hand the literary men, friendly or inimi- 
cal, who came to judge the play, and on the other the. 
faded harlots of Paris, the white-gloved bullies, the men 
of pleasure and finance who had sunk to the streets, 
in fact all the characters that figured in the play itself, 
multiplied fifty times over. And these looked and listened 
with pale faces, sneering at the representation of their own 


depravity. However, there was considerable applause when 
the play ended; and Zola and Busnach received the con- 
gratulations of their friends in the manager's private room, 
where Madame Zola, suddenly turning towards her husband, 
scolded him for having failed to order any supper to cele- 
brate the happy event. "My dear," Zola answered, re- 
membering, no doubt, the supper intended to celebrate 
the success of " Le Bouton de Bose," which had become a 
fiasco, "I'm superstitious, you know, and I'm convinced 
that if I had ordered a supper the piece would have 
failed." 1 

It was attacked by the critics on the morrow, some com- 
plaining that they had been imposed upon, that they had 
been led to expect a masterpiece of revolutionary audacity, 
and that only a repugnant play, base and crapulous in its 
fidelity to life, had been offered them. Others, of course, 
protested against the exhibition of the harlot on the stage ; 
and to them Zola responded that he was by no means 
the first to set her there. He recalled Victor Hugo, with 
* Marion Delorme" and "La Esmeralda " ; Dumas jils, with 
" La Dame aux Camillas" ; Barrfere and Thiboust with " Les 
Filles de Marbre," and Emile Augier with "Le Mariage 
d'Olympe." They and their imitators had lied, however; 
they had pictured harlots such as had never existed since 
the world was world, and his sin was that he had done 
his best to portray such a creature as she really was. 
"Besides," he added, "it seems to me cowardice to shun 
certain problems under the pretext that they disturb one. 
That is turning egotism and hypocrisy into a system. Let 
be, people say, let us cover up vice and celebrate virtue 

1 "Journal des Goncourt," Vol. VI, p. 134 


even when it is not to be found. ... I have a different 
idea of morality. It is not served by rhetorical declamation 
but by an accurate knowledge of facts. And therein lies 
that Naturalism which provokes so much laughter, and 
at which so much mud is foolishly thrown/* 

The actress who played the rdle of Nana was L6ontine 
Massin. Fair, with a coaxing glance, a sensual mouth and 
nose, and a superb figure, she quite looked the part, in spite 
of her forty years; and, truth to tell, she had in some 
measure lived it. She had also long been known to the 
stage in minor rdles ; and now, yielding to her natural 
instincts, she sprang to the front, impersonating Nana with 
a power and a truth which stirred one deeply. All Paris 
flocked to see her. But she was not content with acting. 
She became Nana in reality, and her chosen victim was the 
manager of the Ambigu, Henri Chabrillat, a bright, talented, 
gallant man, who had shown Ms bravery in the Franco- 
German War, and his literary skill in half a dozen novels. 
Unhappily he was carried away by a mad infatuation for 
the temptress; as fast as money poured into his coffers 
he squandered it upon her; embarrassment followed, and 
when the end came he put a pistol to his head. Never, 
perhaps, has the truth of a play, and the disregard of the 
passions for the most obvious lessons, been exemplified 
more terribly. Amid the uproar which ensued La Massin 
vanished, Paris for a week remained lost in amazement, 
and then, as always happens, the tragedy was forgotten. 

In that same year, 1881, Zola republished in book form 
most of the biographical and literary papers which he had 
written of recent years. "Le Roman Experimental" had 
led the way in 1880, and now there came four more 


volumes : first *' Les Romanciers Naturalistes," l a series of 
papers on Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert, Daudet, and the 
Goncourts, to which was added the much discussed review 
of contemporary novelists ; secondly, " Documents Litt- 
raires: Etudes et Portraits," 2 in which will be found 
papers on Chateaubriand, Hugo, Musset, Gautier, George 
Sand, Dumas fls, Ste.-Beuve, contemporary poets such as 
Leconte de Lisle, Baudelaire, Banville, Oatulle Mend&s, 
Bierx, Anatole France, Mallarm^, H&r^dia, Copp^e, Bouchor, 
Richepin, and Sully-Prudhomme ; and critics such as Taine, 
Pontmartin, Levallois, Babou, Barbey d'Aur^villy, and 
Sarcey, with some curious notes on Buloz, the founder of 
the famous " R&vue des Deux-Mondes." Next there came 
"Le Naturalisme au Th^Htre," divided into two sections, 
theory and example; the former including papers on the 
special gift alleged to be necessary in all writers for the 
stage, on acting, costumes, scenery, government subventions, 
eta ; and the latter running through the whole scale of 
the playwright's art, tragedy, drama, comedy, vaudeville 
and pantomime, with selections from the many articles 
which Zola had written as a dramatic critic between 1876 
and 1880. Finally there was a fourth volume entitled, 
"Nos Auteurs Dramatiques," in which plays by Hugo, 
Augier, Dumas fils> Sardou, Labiche, Hal&vy, Gondinet, 
Pailleron, D'Ennery, Barri&re, Feuillet, and others, were 
analysed and discussed, 3 

1 Charpentier, 18mo, 338 pagea. Ten copis on Dutch paper. The con- 
tents first appeared partly in the "Viestnik Yevropi," partly in "Le 

2 Charpentier, 18mo, 427 pagei. Ten copiea on Dutch paper. The con- 
tents of thisrolume also appeared originally in the "Viestnik Yevropi." 

* Both volumes mentioned above were issued by Charpentier uniform with 
the previous one. Dumas fib, whom Zola criticised with great severity in 


To some of the theories set forth in those four volumes 
it may be necessary to refer when we survey Zola's work 
generally. The books have been mentioned here because 
they were issued at the period we have now reached, and 
because it is advisable that the reader should realise how 
energetic, how zealous Zola always was, how great was his 
versatility, and how strenuous his life. This man who sub- 
sequently preached the gospel of work had practised it unre- 
mittingly since the day he emerged from Bohemia. Fortune 
might frown or success might come, he did not alter in Ms 
industrious habits. In spite of every rebuff, every attack, he 
continued striving undauntedly, even as his father had 
striven before him. He was a living example of the axiom, 
that life is a battle. He fought for his ideas, his princi- 
ples, without a pause, until his last hour. 

" N"os Auteurs Dramatiques," responded by assailing Zola's dramatic theories, 
in his preface to " I/lStrangfere." See "Theatre Complet d'AL Dumas j " 
Paris, Calmann LeVy, 1879. $ 




"La Joie de Yivre" begun and put aside " Pot-Bouille " The outlay at 
MMan Zola*s first franc His hypochondria and dread of death 
His opinion of drawing-rooms His idea of writing a book which would 
never end " Au Bonheur des Dames " begun Zola falls seriously ill 
He recovers and finishes " Au Bonheur des Dames " " Le Capitaine 
Burle The decline of Zola r s sales He is still stage-struck Alphonse 
Daudet and the ITrench Academy His popularity and friendship with 
Zola " La Joie de Vivre " finished "Pot-Bouille " as a play First 
ideas of "La Terref* "Germinal** Zola among the pitmen A 
charge of plagiarism The reception of "Germinal " " L'CEuvre" 
Zola on politicians and young writers Death of Victor Hugo Zola's 
telegram to George Hugo "Germinal** forbidden as a play The 
purport of "Germinal" Zola, humanitarianism, and artistry Publi- 
cation of "LXEuvre** Zola prepares **La Terre" A glance at the 
French peasantry Sketch of " La Terre ** by Zola His tour of inves- 
tigation Various plays: "Le Ventre de Paris," "Renee," Jacques 
Dajnour," * * Tout pour l f Honneur, ** The * ' Manifesto of the Mve ** against 
Zola and "La Terre** Zola's opinion of it Daudet and Goncourt 
unconnected with it Prolonged denunciation of Zola M. Lockroy to 
the rescue How Zola became a knight of the Legion of Honour. 

IN the year 1881, besides launching the critical volumes 
enumerated in the last chapter, Zola carried his Rougoii- 
Macquart series a step further. Early in the spring he 
planned "La Joie de Yivre," a tale of pain and suffering, 
containing numerous autobiographical passages, descriptive 
of some of his feelings and peculiarities. But while he was 
preparing his notes the recollection of his mother's recent 
death constantly pursued him, and he felt it would be 
impossible for him at that time to write such a book as he 
wished. So, after a few attempts, he decided to postpone 


this particular work. It will be remembered that he had 
first intended to make the Rougon-Macquart series one of 
eight volumes only. Next, he had decided on twelve, to 
which figure he had adhered until the time of "L'Assom- 
moir/* But plenty of characters for additional volumes 
figured on the leaves of the genealogical tree which he had 
long since prepared, 1 and now that success had come he felt 
that he might extend his series. "Nana w was its ninth 
volume, and he resolved to add eleven more. " La Joie de 
Vivre" having been put aside, he was thinking of what 
subject he might take in hand when, in the course of his 
" Figaro " campaign, he had occasion to write an article on 
" Adultery in the Middle Class." The idea that this was the 
great evil preying on the 'bourgeoisie seized hold of him, and 
he began to prepare the book which he called " Pot-Bouille," 
a title which might be Englished, perhaps, as " The Stockpot/' 
and which signifies every-day cuisine and by extension 
every-day life. Some of the incidents that he wove into this 
work had come under his personal observation, others were 
suggested by friends, some of whom also collected special 
information which he needed, Huysmans, for instance, 
supplying notes about the church of St. Roch, and C&trd 
inquiring into diocesan architects, government clerks, judges, 
and others, their earnings, their duties, their pensions, and 
so forth. 2 

Begun at M6dan, continued at Grandcamp on the 
Norman coast, whither Zola betook himself during the 

1 He had shown it at a very early stage to Ms friends Huysmans and 
Ce*ard, and the former has recorded how greatly they were amazed "by it 
("Le Matin," September 30, 1902.) 

3 Sherard (I. c., 188 et seq) gives a variety of information on these points 
taken from Zola's letters to a friend whose name does not appear. 


summer, and eventually finished at MSdaa in the autumn, 
"Pot-Bouille" first appeared, somewhat bowdlerised, in "Le 
Gatilois/' which paid the author thirty thousand francs l for 
the serial rights. But even Zola's best friends did not re- 
ceive the work very favourably. In writing it he had made 
a trial of his own scientific formula, keeping his descriptions 
as short as possible, dividing the narrative into acts, as it 
were, like a play, curbing his fancy throughout, allowing 
no exuberance of style ; and he was afterwards amazed to 
find so many cavillers. " It is the clearest and most con- 
densed of my novels/ 7 he wrote to a friend early in 1882. 2 
Nevertheless, this time the public seemed to share the 
opinion of the critics. The sale of " Pot-Bouille " in vol- 
ume form 8 was much smaller than that of " L'Assommoir " 
and "Nana, w a circumstance which is worthy of note, for 
Zola's adversaries had argued that if "Nana" had sold so 
largely it was solely on account of all the depravity depicted 
in its pages. But here was a book which, in that respect, 
actually surpassed * If ana," and yet it had nothing like the 
same sale. It has been suggested by way of explanation 
that middle-class people were the chief purchasers of Zola's 
works, and that while they appreciated his delineation of 
depravity among others, they were offended by his descrip- 
tion of it among themselves. In that respect " Pot-Bouille " 
certainly brought Zola some worry ; for as a gentleman of 

l 1,200 = about $6, 000. 

* Sherard, L c., p. 193. 

8 " Pot-Bouille," Paris, Charpentier, 1882, 18mo, 499 pages ; some copies 
on Dutch, India, and Japanese paper; eighty-second thousand in 1893, 
ninety-fifth thousand in 1903. Illustrated edition: Marpon and Mamma- 
rion, 1883, large 8vo, titles, 452 pages. Fifty-seven wood-engravings after 
Bellanger and Kaiifrmann, Sold also in parts at 10 centimes. One hun- 
dred special copies on Dutch paper with the engravings on India paper. 


the law declared he recognised himself in a certain char- 
acter, legal proceedings supervened, and Zola had to make 
certain alterations in his work. 

Shortly before the publication of ** Pot-Bouille/* Edmond 
de Goncourt had suggested to Zola that their monthly 
dinners, abandoned since the death of Flaubert, might be 
resumed, and Zola, like Tourgeneff and Alphonse Daudet, 
immediately assented. Goncourt, by the way, would seem 
to have then seen little of Zola for some time past He 
mentions that he read the first chapters of his novel, * La 
Faustin," to the Zolas, the Daudets, Hr&dia, Gharpentier, 
and the "young men of M6dan," on which occasion he was 
amazed to find that the passages based on study and 
research produced no effect on his little audience, whereas 
the chapters in which he had relied on Ms imagination car- 
ried them away. And he was particularly amused when 
Zola declared that a certain imaginary Greek, called Atha- 
asiadas, must really have been drawn from the life. 1 A 
little later, when Goncourt, the Daudets, and Charpentier 
visited Zola at M^dan, they found that he had already spent 
two hundred thousand francs on his house there, besides 
buying one of the islands on the Seine near the property 
and building a chalet on it In talking of those matters, 
Zola evinced a superb contempt for money. It was Im- 
possible for him to hoard, he said ; he remembered the first 
franc-piece given him when he was a very little boy. He 
had immediately gone to buy a purse, which had cost him 
nineteen sous, in such wise that he had only one sou left 
to put in it. 2 

i "Journal des Goncourt," YoL VI, p. 140. 
3 Ibid., p. 162. 


When the monthly "Diner des Autetirs Siffl&s" was 
resumed in March, 1882, the two stock subjects of conver- 
sation, says Goncourt, were death and love. And the 
hypochondriasis from which Zola was suffering, which had 
declared itself at the time of his mother's death and had 
recently compelled him to put " La Joie de Yivre " aside, 
now "became painfully manifest. An unreasoning fear of 
death, and, it would seem, even of suffering pursued him. 
Somewhat later ( in 1885 ) and apropos of the terrible, lin- 
gering death of Jules Vall&s, who in the midst of a friendly 
conversation would suddenly blanch with dread as if he 
could see death approaching him, Zola said to Goncourt: 
" Ah ! to be struck down suddenly, as Flaubert was, that is 
the death one should desire," 1 This wish, we know, was 
ultimately granted. But in 1882, according to Goncourt, 
Zola, who believed that he had a complaint of the heart, was 
tortured by the idea of <*a sudden and violent death which 
would fall upon him before he had finished his work." 
Again, we know that such a fate did ultimately befall him ; 
but Goncourt tells us that, at the period we have now 
reached, the thought of it haunted him to such a degree 
that "since the death of his mother, whose coffin it had 
been necessary to bring down by way of the window (there 
being only a narrow, winding staircase at M6dan, in spite of 
all its embellishments), he had never since been able to set 
eyes on that window without wondering who would soon be 
lowered from it, himself or his wife. ' Yes/ he said, ' since 
that day the thought of death is always lurking in our 
minds. We now invariably keep a light burning in our bed- 
room, and very often, when I look at my wife before she 

1 "Journal des Goncourt," YoL YII, p. 11. 


falls asleep, I feel that she is thinking of it even as I am. 
And we remain like that, a certain feeling of delicacy pre- 
venting us from making any allusion to what we are both 
thinking of. Oh ! the thought is terrible I There are nights 
when I suddenly spring out of bed on both feet, and remain 
for a moment in a state of indescribable fright.' " l 

And this, it will be observed, was the leading French 
novelist of the time, a man in the prime of life, whose name 
was already known all over the world, who had risen from 
poverty to affluence, and who, if attacked by some, was also 
envied by thousands ! 

A few days after telling his friends how he suffered at the 
thought of death, Zola gave a diner Jin at his Paris residence. 
There was great display; and Goncourt tells us that the 
menu included potage au IU vert, reindeers' tongues, mullet 
& la Proven$ale, and truffled guineafowl. 2 But Zola was still 
out of sorts. Success had no charms for him, he said, and, 
in his estimation, literature was a mere dog's trade. Less 
than a month afterwards, on April 6, the day when " Pot- 
Bouille ' was published, and when the first orders seemed to 
indicate a large demand for the book, Goncourt met Zola 
again and found him as morose as ever. The truth would 
appear to be that he resented some of the criticisms already 
levelled at his work. He kept on growling, and finally ex- 
claimed that it was not so necessary to have had actual 
experience of things as some folk imagined ; and as for in- 
cessant reading, well, he had not the time for it. " Society ? " 
he added, " why, what does a drawing-room reveal of life ? 
It shows one nothing at all ! I have five and twenty men 

1 "Journal des Goncourt," Vol. VI, p. 186 (March 6, 1882). 
a A somewhat similar dinner is described in " L'OEuvre." 


now working at M6dan who teach me a hundred times more 
than any drawing-room would teach me." 

Again on April 18, when lunching with Madame Zola at 
Goncourf s, he was full of spleen, complaining of a score 
of worries, and notably of some plot, engineered by sundry 
members of the French Academy, to stop the circulation of 
* Pot-Bouille." He had now already begun to write the 
next instalment of the Rougon-Macquarts, that is, "Au 
Bonheur des Dames," but according to his statements to 
G-oncourt, this story really had no great attraction for him. 
He dreamt of undertaking some work which he would never 
be able to finish, he said, something which would give 
him occupation, and at the same time enable him to retire 
from the every-day battle without saying so for instance, 
some colossal and endless history of French literature. In 
July that same year 1882 when Goncourt, Daudet, and 
Charpentier were at M^dau, Zola reiterated his dissatisfac- 
tion with " Au Bonheur des Dames." His previous success 
had spoilt his life, he declared; he would never again be 
able to write a book which would make as much stir as 
" L' Assomnioir " or command such a multitude of readers 
as "Nana." 1 

Writing to a friend a fortnight previously, he had evinced 
less pessimism. Indeed, though he referred to "Au Bon- 
heur des Dames " as a tour de force which would end by 
disgusting people "with the complicated state of French 
literature," he had expressed himself as being generally 
satisfied, and as enjoying the solitude in which he found 
himself at M&Ian, for it lent him great lucidity of mind. 
But it is certain that his nerves were overstrained, and that 
i "Journal des Goncourt, 1 * Vol. YI, p. 209. 


Goncourt's opinion of his condition was accurate ; for a little 
later, in August, he collapsed and had to cease work entirely. 
His friends were very much alarmed, for his weakness be- 
came extreme and a fatal issue seemed possible. But his 
constitution slowly triumphed over that nervous prostration, 
and at the end of October, one finds him writing to a 
friend : " I am a little better. I have been able to get back 
to work. Nevertheless I am not at all strong. I fancy 
that something very grave brushed past me but spared 
me. . . . How heavy is the pen! For the next two or 
three years I ought to lead the life of an idiot [i. e. a purely 
animal life without mental exertion] in order to recover my 
strength. I have become such a coward that the prospect 
of having to finish my book terrifies me." l 

But he compelled himself to resume it, for as is well 
known he regarded work as the panacea for all evils, physi- 
cal as well as mental. Thus, by the middle of November, 
he was able to announce that he had taken up his task 
again with a sufficiency of courage and intellectual health- 
It was about this time that M. Charpentier published a vol- 
ume of his short stories, previously contributed to various 
periodicals. 2 Moreover " Au Bonheur des Dames " was now 
appearing serially in the " Gil Bias," which paid twenty 

1 Sherard, /. c., p. 196. 

a "Le Capitaine Burle," Paris, Charpentier, 18mo; title-pages "bear the 
date 1883, "but the book really appeared late in 1882. Besides the story 
which gave the volume its title, the following figured in it : " Comment on 
meurt," "Pour une Nuit d' Amour," "Le Fte a Coqueville," "L'lnonda- 
tion." " Le Capitaine Burle " first appeared in " La Tie Moderne," February, 
1881; and the others in "Le Voltaire," 1880. Of the volume twenty-five 
copies were printed on India, and fifty on Dutch paper. Marpon and Flam- 
marion added "Le Capitaine Burle " to their illustrated edition of " Therese 
Kaquin "; and under various titles the other stories figure in their " Collection 
des Auteurs celebres." 


thousand francs for the right of publication, or two-thirds 
of the amount which it had given for " Pot-Bouille." " Au 
Bonheur des Dames " had naturally necessitated considerable 
preliminary study and investigation in order that a truthful 
picture might be presented of the trade of a great city, as 
exemplified by one of those huge drapery establishments, 
the Louvre, the Bon Harelip tod the Printemps. Some 
such leviathan, devouring all the small fry around it and 
teeming with restless life, was depicted in Zola's pages, 
which introduced the reader to a world of counter-jumpers 
beneath whose superficial gloss lay much rank brutishness. 
And the subject also embraced the hard, the often cruel 
lot of the girls employed in such places, the ambition 
and commercial daring of the master, and the ways of all 
the customers, not forgetting the kleptomaniacs. But 
though the book was full of interest of a particular kind 
and deserved the attention of all thinking people, it was 
perhaps scarcely one to fascinate the great majority of 
readers. Zola finished it at the end of January, 1883, 
and in March it was published by M. Charpentier. 1 Most 
of the newspapers dealt with it sharply; and Schdrer, 
the Protestant critic of "Le Temps," still smarting from 
the attacks which Zola had made upon the French Pro- 
testants, their alleged self-righteousness and narrow big- 

*"Au Bonheur des Dames," Paris, Charpentier, 1883, 18mo, 525 pages. 
Some copies on Japanese and some on Dutch paper. Fifty-ninth thousand 
reached in 1893; seventy-fifth thousand in 1903. This would seem to have 
been the first of Zola's works of which a translation appeared in England. 
This translation was made "by Mr. Frank Turner, subsequently secretary to 
General Boulanger; it was first issued in a weekly periodical, which the present 
writer believes to have been "The London Reader," and was afterwards 
published in book form by Tinsley Brothers. Tizetelly & Co. acquired the 
copyright and ultimately sold it to E. A. Vizetelly, who transferred it to 
Hutchinson & Co, 


otry, during his " Figaro n campaign, revengefully described 
the book as " the attempt of an illiterate individual to lower 
literature to his own level." l The general public did not 
take very kindly to the work. With " Pot-Bouille " there had 
at least been a moment when a very large sale had seemed 
probable, but the demand for "Au Bonheur des Dames" 
was distinctly moderate, and the wiseacres of the bookselling 
world opined that Zola, after going up like a rocket, might 
presently come down like a stick. It is true that the sudden 
and melodramatic death of Gambetta a short time previously 
(December 31, 1882) had left the French political world in 
some confusion ; and it is known that the bookselling trade 
invariably suffers when there is any political unrest. Yet 
the conditions of the time did not sufficiently explain the 
drop in the demand for Zola's writings. 

Goncourt, who met him a short time after the publication 
of "Au Bonheur des Dames," found him lugubrious. "The 
big sales are all over," said he, in much the same tone as 
a Trappist might have ejaculated the customary greeting, 
"Brother, one must die/' Nevertheless, though he had 
several excellent subjects in his mind, books which under 
favourable circumstances might well have compelled a re- 
newal of public attention, he deliberately postponed them, 
and turned to a work which he must have known would 
appeal to only a small audience, that study of suffering, 
egotism, and sacrifice which he called satirically " La Joie 
de Vivre," and which he had put aside in 1881. 

After all, in Ms estimation apparently, it mattered little 
what book he took in hand, for as he remarked to G-oncourt 
at the Com^die Frangaise on the night of the revival of 

1 Schte's "Etudes sur la Literature Contemporaine," Yol. VII, p. 240, 


Victor Hugo's "Le Roi s'amuse" (November 23, 1882), 
novels were always the same thing over and over again ; and 
it would only be possible to take an interest in the writing 
of them if one could invent a new form. Personally his 
great desire was an opportunity to produce a play, one really 
all his own. In a word he was as stage-struck as ever, and 
it seemed unlikely that he would feel content until he had 
criven the world an acknowledged dramatic masterpiece. 
That comparative disregard for the work for which one is 
best fitted, that craving to excel in something else, and to 
be praised for it, has appeared in many men, in various 
degrees and ways. There was Thackeray, who always 
longed to see his drawings commended ; there was Ingres, 
who courted more applause for his proficiency as a violinist 
than for his gifts as a painter. 

At the opening of the Salon of 1883, Zola lunched with 
Daudet and Goncourt; and Daudet unbosoming himself, 
as was often his wont, solicited the advice of his friends as 
to whether he should offer himself as a candidate for the 
French Academy. Both Zola and Goncourt urged him to 
do so, and there was no reason why they should have acted 
otherwise, for he had many chances in his favour. He 
occupied a high position as a novelist, and though nowadays 
no thinking critic can place him in the same rank as Zola, 
he was at that time far more popular, for if, here and there, 
he had lampooned one or another individual in his books, he 
had never given anything like the offence which Zola had 
given in many directions. 

It may be said, perhaps, that in 1883 Alphonse Daudet 
had reached the height of his reputation. In any case his 
best work was already done. His novel, " Le Nabab," pub- 


lished in 1878, had been followed the next year by " Les Rois 
en Exil," and in 1880 by " Numa Roumestan," which would 
seem to mark the apogee of his career, for a decline was 
already observable in " L'Evangfliste," published in 1882, 
and although "Sapho/ 1 issued two years later, sold pro- 
digiously, it was not really a great book in the opinion of 
the present writer, who, cast young into the vortex of Paris, 
knows something of the existence depicted in Daudet's pages, 
and has always held that picture to be artificial, untrue to 
nature in many essential respects, and absolutely deficient 
in depth. Indeed "Sapho" is a mere skimming of the 
surface; it never probes. But when all is said, Daudet 
could be an admirable story-teller when he chose, and the 
very gifts, which on one hand led to some adverse criti- 
c i sni) ki s veneer of poetry, his sentimentality, his inclina- 
tion to moralise, won him favour far and wide among 
people of average intellects. 

As was suggested earlier in these pages, Daudet brought 
a feminine talent into competition with the masculine talent 
of Zola. Each had his champions in the Parisian world of 
those days, and nothing would have given some folk greater 
pleasure than a fierce battle for supremacy between the two 
men who had become the most widely read novelists of their 
time. But as a matter of fact they were the best of friends. 
One has only to glance at Zola's collected essays to see how 
he praised some of Daudet's writings ; while on consulting 
the pages of Goncourt's <e Journal" one will find the two 
rivals constantly together, dining and lunching and making 
excursions. Daudet frequently went to M&Ian, where he 
boated on the Seine, singing gaily while he rowed, for his 
health was still good, his spirits were still those of the 


joyous South, all brightness and geniality, which often 
helped to dispel his friend's hypochondria. That he was 
worthy of a place in the French Academy goes without say- 
ing, and it was only natural that he should have thought 
of offering himself as a candidate and have solicited his 
friends' advice. But, as will be remembered, his views on 
the subject changed entirely; he allowed it to be known 
that he regarded the Academy as beneath his notice, and 
then, in a contradictory spirit, went out of his way to 
lampoon it in a third-rate book, " L'lmmorteL" As for 
Zola, in 1883 there could be no question of an Academical 
seat for him. He was still in the midst of his battle, with 
his work only half done. 

His novel "La Joie de Vivre," begun at M^dan, was 
written chiefly amid the wild, primitive surroundings of the 
Anse de Benodet* a creek on the rocky coast of Finistkre ; 
but the scene of the book was laid on the Norman shore, 
between St. Aubin and Grandcamp, where Zola had stayed 
in previous years. In Lazare Chanteau, the "hero" of his 
stoiy, he depicted much of his own hypochondria, at which 
he had already glanced in a tale called " La Mort d'Olivier 
B^caille." Lazare's fear of death, his petty superstitions, his 
irresolution, were all based on Zola's personal experience. 
So gray a work, which only the devotion and self-sacrifice 
of Pauline, the heroine, occasionally brightens, could not at- 
tract the mass of the reading public. It was published first 
by the " Gil Bias," which again paid twenty thousand francs 
for the serial rights ; but when it appeared as a volume its 
sales were small 1 In fact, from the standpoint of circula- 

1 " La Joie de Yivre," Paris, Charpentier, 18mo, 451 pages ; some early 
copies dated 1883, others 1884, when (February) it would appear to have been 


tion, Zola now relapsed into the position he had occupied 
before " L'Assommoir." 

But he had made a fresh effort as a playwright, having 
prepared a dramatic version of " Pot-Bouille," in conjunc- 
tion with M. Busnach. This, which was produced at the 
Ambigu Theatre on December 13, 1883, proved less success- 
ful than its forerunners, "L'Assommoir" and "Nana," and 
Zola, in a grumpish mood, decided to remain at " the mill," 
that is, write another novel. This time, however, he hesi- 
tated awhile as to his subject. Among those he had 
selected for consideration was the railway world, but he 
was still at a loss how he might work it into a novel. It 
would be better to turn to the peasantry, to whom he 
must certainly devote a book; and so, after telling Gon- 
court that his next novel would be called " La Terre," and 
that in order to obtain the requisite local colour he would 
have to spend at least a month on a farm in La Beauce, 
he asked his friend if it would be possible to procure him 
a letter of recommendation from some large landowner 
to one of his farmers, *who might be willing to give a 
lodging to a lady in poor health and in need of country air. 
The lady in question Madame Zola would naturally 
be accompanied by her husband, and, added Zola, a double- 
bedded room with whitewashed walls would be ample 
accommodation, though it must be arranged that he and 
his wife should take their meals with the farmer and his 
family, for otherwise he would learn virtually nothing. 1 
He realised, apparently, that folks unbutton themselves 

really published. Some copies were on Japan, India, and Dutch paper. 
Forty-fourth thousand in 1893 on completion of the Rougon-Macquart series ; 
fifty-fourth thousand in 1903. 

l " Journal des Goncourt," Vol. VI, p. 288 (January 16, 1884). 


(in the figurative sense) more readily at meal-time than 
at any other. 

Goncourt was unable to help his friend in this matter, 
at all events immediately; so Zola turned to another 
subject which he mentioned on the same occasion, that 
of a strike in a mining district, such as was in progress 
among the pitmen of northern France at that very moment. 
Forthwith he started for the scene of the trouble. "At 
Valenciennes since Saturday, among the strikers, who are 
remarkably calm," he wrote in February, 1884. " A splen- 
did country as a scene for my book," This time his subject 
fairly carried him away. " He spent," says Mr. Sherard, 
" the best part of six months in travelling about, note-book 
in hand, through the various mining districts of the north 
of France and of Belgium, interviewing miners, exploring 
mines from pit-mouth to lowest depths, attending political 
meetings among the miners, studying various types of 
Socialist lecturers, drinking horrible beer and still more 
horrible brandy in the forlorn cabarets of the corons [miners' 
villages], interrogating miners' wives, and wandering about 
the fields in the neighbourhood of these corons to watch 
the lads and lassies taking their poor pastimes when the 
day's drudgery was over." 1 

Some eight or nine years subsequently, Mr. Sherard, 
on visiting the Borinage, as the coal district round Mons 
is called, fell in with an old porion or " viewer " who had 
acted as one of Zola's guides, and who pronounced him 
to have been the most inquisitive gentleman he had ever 
met. Never had he known anybody who asked more 
questions, said he, unless, indeed, it were an investigating 

* Sherard, 1. <?., p. 203. 


magistrate. Mr. Sherard mentions also that "Germinal" 
for that was the book which proceeded from Zola's 
sojourn among the pitmen was known in every mining 
village which he visited. There was not a coron where 
at least one well-thumbed copy of the work could not 
be found : a proof of the appreciation in which it was held 
by the toilers on whose behalf it had been written. 

The preliminary study which "Germinal" necessitated, 
the long sojourn among new and strange scenes, the strong 
interest, the compassion roused by all Zola saw and heard, 
most certainly proved very beneficial to him, reinvigorating 
him, checking his hypochondriacal tendency, diverting his 
mind from self, renewing and enlarging his ideas. Thus 
he was again in possession of physical and mental strength 
when he began the actual writing of the book. Like his 
more recent novels it was published en feuilleton by the 
" Gil Bias " ; 1 and an English version, prepared by Mr. 
Albert Vandam, appeared in a London weekly newspaper, 
" The People." 2 

While the serial issue was in progress Zola was once 
again accused of plagiarism. This time he was said to have 
borrowed the idea of " Germinal " from a story called w Le 

1 About this time, that is late in 1884, there appeared another volume of 
Zola's short stories : "Nais Micoulin," Paris, Gharpentier, 18mo, 384 pages; 
twenty-five copies on India, one hundred on Dutch paper. Besides " Nais" 
the volume contained : " Kantas," " La Mort d'Olivier Be~eaille," " Madame 
Neigeon," "Les Coquillages de M. Chabre," and "Jacques Damour." All 
these tales will also be found in Marpon and Flammarion's popular " Col- 
lection des Auteurs cel&bres." 

3 Under date November 20, 1884, Zola sold all his rights in "Germinal 
for Great Britain to Mr. W. T* Madge, manager of " The People/* Yizetelly 
& Co. acquired book rights from the latter and published a fuller transla- 
tion. Their rights were subsequently purchased by E. A. Vizetelly and sold 
by him to Chatto and Windus. 


Grisou" (" Firedamp '*), by M. Maurice Talmeyre a story 
which likewise dealt with the coalpits of northern France, 
and which when published a few years previously had at- 
tracted some attention, being full of interest and written 
with literary ability. But the idea that Zola had stolen his 
idea of " Germinal " from it was ridiculous. It had been 
pointed out long since by Alexis that he proposed to add 
a second volume on the masses to the study he had made 
of them in " L'Assommoir," intending on the second occa- 
sion to deal more particularly with their social and political 
aspirations. That intention was partially carried into effect 
in "Germinal," and the idea of laying the scene of his 
story in the "black country" of northern France was 
a sudden inspiration which came to Zola when he found 
it difficult to proceed immediately with his proposed work 
on some of the French peasantry an inspiration which 
was not derived from M. Talmeyre's book at all, but from 
the circumstance that some thousands of pitmen were on 
strike at that very time. 

Surely no author can claim a monopoly of any subject 
or any locality. One writer, for instance, may lay a scene 
in Regent Street; another is equally entitled to do so; 
and in the result there may well be some resemblance 
between their descriptions of the thoroughfare. More- 
over, in giving an account of any form of life, all writers 
are confronted by the same essential facts. They may 
regard them, interpret them, differently, but each must 
take them into account, Thus if somewhat similar scenes 
and corresponding facts figure occasionally in " Le Grisou " 
and " Germinal " it does not follow that the second is stolen 
from the first. But Zola, unfortunately, was a much-hated 


man, and the flimsiest peg was good enough for his enemies. 
As a matter of fact, with respect to " Germinal/* he gave 
nearly six months to personal study of his suhject on the 
spot, and though he derived a few incidents, as he was 
well entitled to do, from officially recorded instances of the 
horrors and dangers of the pitman's life, 1 Ms work well 
deserved to be regarded not only as an original one but 
even as a livre vecu. When " Germinal " appeared as a 
volume there was a large demand for it, though its circula- 
tion did not approach that of " I/Assommoir " or " Nana." 
This has surprised several writers on Zola, who hold 
"Germinal" to be his masterpiece; but it has already 
been pointed out in these pages that his sales had been 
declining for some time past, books like " Pot-BouiUe " 
having angered many of his readers. It was hardly to 
be expected that he would regain all his lost ground at 
one leap, and under the circumstances the reception given 
to " Germinal " was distinctly cheering. Moreover, whereas 
there had been no popular illustrated edition of " Au Bon- 
heur des Dames " or " La Joie de Vivre," one of " Germinal" 
in parts soon made its appearance, and sold very widely, 
in such wise that the full extent of the book's circulation 
cannot be gauged by M. Charpentier's printings. 2 

1 For instance, the horrible experiences of ^tienne Lantier in the Voreux 
pit towards the close of the "book were based on those of a miner walled np in 
a Lyons pit in 1854, and on those of a pitman of the Gard, described by M. 
Parran, an engineer, in the " Bulletin de la Societe* de Hndustrie Minerale." 
That narrative suggested the idea of the floating corpse in the inundated mine. 

3 "Germinal," Paris, Charpentier, 1885, ISrao, 581 pages. Eighty-eighth 
thousand in 1893 j one hundred and tenth thousand in 1903. Some copies 
on Japanese, Dutch, and India papers. Illustrated edition : Paris, Llbrairie 
Illustre'e, n, d., quarto, titles, five hundred pages ; wood-engravings after 
Pe*rat ; one hundred and fifty copies on Dutch paper. This edition like 
others is now sold by E. Elammarion, successor of Marpon and Elanimarion, 
Eue Eacine, Paris.. 


The next work which Zola took in hand was " L'GEuvre," 
the most autobiographical of all his novels, and one for 
which he had no need to collect documents, for his mate- 
rials were stored away in his memory. A little of his hypo- 
chondria had now returned to him, and the writing of 
** Germinal " having compelled him to give some attention 
to politics, he did not cease to rail at politicians. At the 
" Henriette Marshal " anniversary dinner (May 6, 1885) he 
made quite a sortie against them, declaring that they were 
the sworn foes of literary men, in which opinion Edmond de 
Goncourt cordially agreed. About that time " L'Assommoir " 
was revived as a play, and at a dinner given at the Maison 
Dor^e to celebrate the event, Zola turned from the politi- 
cians to rate some of the young authors of the time, their 
alacrity of speech, and on the other hand their unwillingness 
to take the trouble of writing, unless they were positively 
assured of publication. One of these young men, said 
Zol% would expound an idea that had come to him, depict 
in glowing terms all the interest which such or such a book 
would have, and then conclude coldly : " Ah ! if a publisher 
would only order it of me ! " For young men of that stamp 
there was no question of striving. They would work to 
order or not at all. Thus literature was becoming a mere 
commercial pursuit. 

On May 22, 1885, France lost her great poet, Victor Hugo. 
He had been sinking for some time ; nevertheless the news 
that he was really dead quite startled Paris, During his 
last illness he had declined the ministrations of " any priest 
of any religion," and the announcement that he would be 
buried without rites or prayers angered the Church party 
exceedingly, and led to unseemly scenes in the Chamber of 









Deputies when It was proposed that the Pantheon should 
be restored to its former destination as the resting-place of 
the great men of Trance, and that Hugo's remains should 
be laid in it This proposal having been shelved by the 
Chamber, the popular indignation became so great that 
President Gr^vy virtually took the law into his own hands, 
and issued a decree in accordance with public opinion. 
The obsequies became a great anticlerical demonstration. 
Of course, for years past, many free-thinkers had been buried 
without the celebration of religious rites; but there had 
been only a few great secular public funerals, such as that 
of Fdlicien David, the composer, in 1876, later that of 
M. Harold, Prefect of the Seine, and, later still, that of 
Gambetta. The enterrement civil of Victor Hugo marked 
another step in the same direction and it impressed thou- 
sands. More, even, than any of its forerunners, it set an 
example largely followed in later years. 

When Zola heard of the death of Hugo he felt deeply 
stirred. He remembered the days of long ago, the happy 
days of -Provence when he had learnt by heart page after 
page of the poet's writings. He had then drunk deeply of 
Hugo's sonorous rhetoric, and he had not ceased to admire 
his genius. The virtual failure of " Le Hoi s'amuse " when 
it was revived in 1882 had pleased him from the Naturalist 
standpoint; yet he had not concealed his opinion that 
many passages of the play deserved applause, and in fact 
he had applauded them. "Why not, indeed?" he had 
ejaculated, turning to Edmond de Goncourt whQ had ac- 
companied him to the Th&ltre Frangais. And whatever 
criticism Zola had levelled at the productions of Hugo's 
declining years, whatever reservations he might make re- 



specting even some of the poet's prime, he knew that this 
man had been a Master, the most powerful that his age 
had produced in France, So Zola immediately despatched 
the following telegram to M. George Hugo, the poets young 

You will learn, perhaps, some day, Monsieur, that even with 
respect to Victor Hugo, I claimed the rights of criticism. And 
this is why, amid the frightful grief that has befallen you, I desire 
to tell you that every heart has broken with yours. 

Victor Hugo was my youth. I remember what I owe him. 
ISTo discussion is possible on such a day as this ; all hands must 
unite, all the writers of France must rise to do honour to a 
Master, and affirm the absolute triumph of literary genius. 

Pray believe, Monsieur, in my deep and dolorous sympathy, 

' PARIS, May 22, 1885. 

Besides writing his novel "L'QEuvre" that year, Zola 
helped M, Busnach to adapt "Germinal" for the stage; 
but when the play was ready in the autumn, the censor- 
ship forbade its performance on the ground that it would 
excite revolutionary passions. Zola's indignation boiled 
over at this rebuff, and with the approval of Alphonse 
Daudet and Edmond de Goncourt, whom he consulted, he 
issued a protest in " Le Figaro," trouncing M. Ken Goblet, 
the responsible Minister, a fussy little advocate who played 
the part of a Radical when it suited his purposes, but who 
was really a Philistine dans I'&me. However, the protest 
had no effect, nor had an offer to allow all reasonable altera- 
tions in the play for the sake of M. Busnach, whose interests 
were chiefly at stake ; and it was only in the spring of 1888, 
1 From the original draught in the possession of M. G. Charpentier. 


when other ministers were in office, that " Germinal * was at 
last produced at the Th&ltre du Ch&telet. It may be con- 
venient to mention here that for some years subsequent to 
the publication of " Germinal" as a novel there was never a 
strike in France without some foolish and prejudiced jour- 
nalists casting the blame on Zola and his book. When in 
1887 D^cazeville became the scene of some terrible dis- 
turbances, Zola was charged in many directions even in 
the Chamber of Deputies by some of its reactionary mem- 
bers with the responsibility of those misfortunes. He 
disdained to reply to such ridiculous accusations ; but it so 
happened that a few months previously (December 27, 
1886) when authorising " Le Petit Rouennais " to publish 
" Germinal " serially, he had written the following prefatory 
note, in which he explained the book's real purport, which 
of course had never been doubtful for sensible minds : 

" * Germinal ? is a work of compassion, not a revolutionary work. 
In writing it my desire was to cry aloud to the happy ones of this 
world, to those who are the masters : ' Take heed 1 Look under- 
ground, observe all those unhappy beings toiling and suffering 
there. Perhaps there is still time to avoid a great catastrophe. 
But hasten, to act justly, for, otherwise, the peril is there : the 
earth will open, and the nations will be swallowed up in one of the 
most frightful convulsions known to the world's history.' 

" I descended into the hell of Labour, and if I concealed noth- 
ing, not even the degradation of that sphere, the shameful things 
engendered by misery and the huddling of human beings together 
as if they were mere cattle, it was because I wished the picture to be 
complete, with all its abominations, so as to draw tears from every 
eye at the spectacle of such a dolorous and pariah-like existence. 
Those things, no doubt, are not for young girls, but family people 
should read me. All of you who work, read what I have written, 


and when you raise your voices for pity and justice my task will 
be accomplished. 

** Yes, a cry of pity, an appeal for justice, I ask no more. Should 
the soil still crack, should the disasters predicted convulse the 
world to-morrow, it will be because my voice will have remained 

Thus, in " Germinal," Zola gave rein to his humanita- 
rian feelings, and in recognition thereof prudes shrieked 
indignantly : " That man is at it again I What a beast he 
must be ! " And on their side capitalists, battening on the 
labour of the poor and alarmed for the safety of their pelf, 
howled in chorus : " This book ought to be suppressed, it 
certainly must not be allowed as a play. It means revolu- 
tion, robbery, rascality of every kind." 

But Zola, though he suffered secretly, all unjust at- 
tacks brought him the keenest suffering, hid it, and 
passed on. 

There was a touch of humanitarianism even in his next 
book, " L'GEuvre," for it set forth, many of the evils of bohe- 
mian life, and embraced an appeal for woman in the person 
of the unhappy Christine, its heroine. Critics may shake 
their heads, indeed some have done so, and say sapiently: 
" All this was not art." They may laugh, too, at the idea of 
reforming the world by novels. But even if, judging Zola 
by some of his books, one may occasionally feel inclined to 
set no very lofty estimate on his artistry, surely the trend 
of his works, the knowledge of their aim, the circumstances 
tinder which they were written, must increase one's respect 
for their author as a man. And, after all, what is the mere 
artist? As often as not he is penned within a fanatical 
creed, bound to narrow formulas, blind to everything beyond 


them, full of prejudice, and even more ridiculous at times 
than the Philistines at whom he rails. 

As " L'GEuvre" dealt chiefly with the art-world of Paris 
at a certain period of the Second Empire, it revived some of 
the passions which Zola had kindled by his championship 
of Manet. By certain painters the book was roundly 
abused when M. Charpentier published it early in 1886, * 
on the completion of the issue in the "Gil Bias/' This 
time the demand was not great, for by its nature <e I/CEuvre " 
appealed more particularly to a limited class of readers. 
Perhaps its sales would have been even smaller had not 
Zola woven into his narrative so much interesting informa- 
tion concerning himself in his earlier years. 

No sooner was he delivered of this book than he turned to 
the novel on the French peasantry which had been in his 
mind at the beginning of 1884. Already at that time he 
had given it considerable thought, made notes, studied his 
subject in books and periodicals ; and he now took up the 
work of preparation in i^eal earnest. At the very outset he 
had decided to lay the scene in or near the great grain-pro- 
ducing region of La Beauce, in some degree because this 
would enable him to deal, en passant, with certain economic 
questions, such as the importation of American wheat, but 
more particularly because both his mother and his grand- 
mother, Madame Aubert, had been Beauceronnes, and in his 
younger days he had often heard them talk of that part of 
the country, which presents various features of interest. 

1 "L'CEuvre," Paris, Charpentier, 1886, 18mo, 491 pages. Some copies 
on special papers. Fifty-fifth, thousand in 1893 ; sixty-fourth thousand in 
1903. Mr. Albert Vandam prepared an English adaptation of this story 
which was published serially in England, and afterwards acquired by Vize- 
telly & Co. It formed the basis of their version of the work. 


La Beauce proper is certainly flat and monotonous, but its 
confines are picturesque, and Dourdan, Auneau, Org&res, and 
other localities are associated historically with the horrible 
crimes of the desperadoes known as chauffeurs, who roamed 
the region early in the nineteenth century. A strain of 
brutishness was long to be observed among some of the in- 
habitants. Withal, they are essentially French, that is of 
the borders of the lie de France, for there is no fixed type of 
French peasant. Those of Provence, Languedoc, Burgundy, 
Normandy, Brittany, and other parts, all differ from one 
another in important characteristics. Thus generalisations 
on the subject of the French peasantry may occasionally 
become ridiculous. 

Nevertheless, at the period selected for Zola's work, that 
of the Second Empire, a general resemblance was to be found 
among them in two respects. In the first place their igno- 
rance was very great. The Imperial Government which did 
a good deal to ameliorate their lot materially, did as little as 
possible to enlighten and elevate their minds. They were, 
so to say, the backbone of the regime, and their ignorance 
was its safeguard At the elections they were led like sheep 
to the polling places to vote for the official candidates. All 
that, however, belongs to the past. Many changes have 
occurred during the last thirty years, and without entering 
here into the question of the religious and secular schools, it 
may be said that under the Third Eepublic more has been 
done than at any previous time for the education of the 
peasantry. Some brutishness persists in various regions, 
but all who remember how widespread was illiteracy before 
the War of 1870 know that great improvement has been 


Today, however, even as was formerly the case, there is 
still one trait common to the French peasantry generally. 
As in other countries there has been, and is still, a great 
exodus from the rural districts to the towns ; but those who 
remain at home are distinguished by their earth-hunger, 
their all-consuming passion for the soil The historical 
explanation of this is perhaps as follows : For centuries the 
peasantry possessed little or nothing, and when the Kevolu- 
tion at last placed the land in their hands absolutely, a 
craving which had descended from generation to generation 
was satisfied. They seized the land eagerly, they clung to 
it fiercely, fearful lest it should be taken from them, as, 
for instance, when the Bourbons returned, and many of the 
old nollesse sought the resumption of their estates. And old- 
time feelings, the covetous cravings of ancestors, the desper- 
ate tenacity of the generation of 1815, have descended to 
the peasants of to-day, and were perhaps even stronger 
among those of the Second Empire, with whom Zola pro- 
posed to deal in his novel " La Terre." 

It was in part on the peasant's brutish ignorance, and 
more particularly on his earth-hunger, that he resolved to 
base his book. The following extract from one of his 
letters 1 will show his intentions: 

" c La Terre * will treat of the French peasant's passion for the 
soil, his long struggle to acquire possession of it, his crushing 
labour, his brief joys and his great wretchedness. He will be 
studied too in connection with religion and politics, his present 
condition being explained by his past history; even his future 
will be indicated, that is the part he may possibly play in a 
Socialist revolution. All that, of course, will lie beneath the 
drama unfolded in the book, the drama of a father dividing his 
i Zola to Vizetelly & Co., Paris, March 24, 1887. 


land among his children before his death, whence slow and abom- 
inable martyrdom will ensue, a perfect tragedy setting some sixty 
characters, an entire village of La Beauce 7 in motion; without 
counting a secondary plot, the passionnel side of the story, a 
quarrel between two sisters, separated by the advent of a man, 
still and ever in connection with a question of land. To sum up, 
I wish to do for the peasant what I did in * L'Assommoir ' for the 
Paris workman, that is, recount his history, manners, passions, 
and sufferings, such as environment and circumstances have fatally 
made them." 

In the spring of 1886 Zola started on a tour of investiga- 
tion. He already had some personal knowledge of the 
region where he proposed to lay the scene of his story, 
having gone there in his mother's time, but that was long 
before he thought of writing f * La Terre." Among the places 
he now visited was CMteaudun, where one finds him early 
in May, whence he writes a friend an interesting letter 
which Mr. Sherard prints, and a portion of which one may 
venture to quote here ; 

" I have been here [Ch&teaudun] since yesterday, and have found 
the spot I need. It is a little valley, four leagues hence, in the 
canton of Cloyes, between Le Perche and La Beauce, and on the 
confines of the latter. I shall introduce a little brook into it, 
which will flow into the Loir such a brook, by the way, exists. 
I shall there have all I require large farms and small, a central 
spot, thoroughly French, a typical and very characteristic horizon, 
gay people speaking patois in short what I always hoped for. . . 
I shall return to Cloyes to-morrow and shall go thence to visit my 
valley and my bit of Beauce frontier in detail. For the day after 
to-morrow I have an appointment with a farmer living three leagues 
from here, in La Beauce, and shall visit his farm in detail. ... I 
remained to-day at CMteaudun to attend a big cattle-market." l 
i Sherard, Lc., p. 227, 


IE June Zola returned to M&lan, and throughout that 
year and indeed until August, 1887, one finds him busy with 
this hook from which he turned only for a short time in 
February and April to attend to the production, first of a 
dramatic version of " Le Ventre de Paris/* l which had at 
least a succls de curwsiU t and secondly of a play called 
" Renfe " based on " La Curfe " which proved a re- 
sounding failure and was attended by an acrimonious con- 
troversy in the press. In the opinion of the critics, 
apparently, Racine's "Phaedra" sufficed for all time, and 
the idea of a modern one in the person of " Rende " was 
monstrous : thus Zola sinned both against the great classic 
writer and against modern society. 2 

While he was dividing his attention between those plays 
and his novel " La Terre," France was becoming more and 
more absorbed in political questions. General Boulanger, 
who had been Minister of War in the Freycinet adminis- 
tration of 1886 had lost that position, but his popularity 
remained extreme, fanned as it was by a large party of mal- 
contents of various political schools. Many were actuated 
solely by patriotic considerations, for there had been trouble 
with Germany over an Alsatian frontier incident known 
historically as the Schnsebeld Affair. Some people who 

1 "Le Yentre de Paris," ive acts, by E. Zola and W. Busnach, first per- 
formed at the Theatre de Paris, February 25, 1887. It differed considerably 
from Zola's novel with the same title. Sarcey slated it in " Le Temps " and 
Zola answered him in "Le Rgaro," March 3, 1887. 

2 "ReneV 1 five acts, by E. Zola, first performed at the Vaudeville April 
16, 1887. On may add that in the latter part of 1887 two plays based on 
tales by Zola were given in Paris : The first was " Jacques Damour," one act, 
by Le*on Hennique, Ode"on, September 22, and the second, "Tout pour 
1'Honneur," adapted from " Le Capitaine Burle," one act, by Henri Ce*ard, 
Theatre Libre, December, 1887; performed also at the Theatre Moliere, 
Brussels, in 1888. 


"believed the general to be sincerely Republican only wished 
Mm to relieve them of certain men of the hour, such as 
President Gr&vy, for rumours were already abroad respecting 
the nefarious practices of the latter's son-in-law, M. Wilson. 
But others were intent on purposes of their own, the over- 
throw of the Republic and the establishment of a monarchy 
or a dictatorship, into which enterprise they hoped to 
inveigle the popular ex-Minister of War. Briefly, at this 
time a great crisis was gradually approaching. 

Nevertheless, though the unrest penetrated to the literary 
world, the latter did not neglect the subjects which more 
particularly concerned it, and there was some commotion 
among men of letters when on August 18 that year (1887) 
a Le Figaro " published a manifesto directed against Zola's 
new work, which had been appearing in the " Gil Bias " 
since May, and the concluding pages of which were at 
that very moment being written at M&ian. This manifesto 
(which, when one recalls the presumptuous preface to " Les 
Soirfes de M&Ian," may be regarded as a Roland for an 
Oliver) was signed by five young writers, Paul Bonnetain, 
J. BL Rosny, Lucien Descaves, Paul Margueritte, and Gustave 
Guiches, who, " in the name of their supreme respect for art, 
protested against a literature devoid of all nobility/' The 
factum was of some length, diffuse, bristling with scientific 
jargon, and disfigured by a ridiculous attack on the personal 
appearance of Zola, whose leadership these young men 
solemnly renounced. 

At that time the best known of the five was Paul 
Bonnetain, a Provencal of Nimes, and a friend of Alphonse 
Daudet, who came from the same city. Bonnetain had then 
published four or five books, the first of which, " Chariot 


s'amuse," had so out-Zola'd anything written by Zola him- 
self that its author had been prosecuted for it. M. Rosny 
on his side had at that date written two books, " Nell Horn," 
a ridiculous story of "English manners, n and"Le Bilateral," 
a study of Anarchism and Collectivism which showed marked 
improvement. M. Gustave Guiches was the author of three 
volumes, none of which had attracted attention; while 
Lucien Descaves had published four novels, and was gradu- 
ally emerging from obscurity, though another two years 
were to elapse before his venturesome book, " Sous-Off," 
for which he was tried and acquitted made his name 
at all widely known. Finally, M. Paul Margueritte 
destined like M. Eosny to acquire a high position in litera- 
ture, in conjunction, be it said, with his younger brother, 
Victor was as yet only known by an estimable book 
on his father, the gallant general killed at Sedan, and a 
couple of works of fiction, " Tous Quatre " and " Une Con- 
fession posthume." The eldest of the band, Bonnetain, 
was in his thirtieth year, the others were six or seven and 

A comical feature of the affair was that of these five in- 
dignant writers, who so solemnly disowned <f the Master of 
M&lan," only one, Bonnetain, was personally known to him. 
They had met just twice. With the others Zola had no 
acquaintance at all. This appears clearly from the state- 
ments he made to M. Fernand Xau of the " Gil Bias," who, 
directly the manifesto appeared and Zola's enemies raised a 
cry of jubilation at the so-called " great Naturalist schism," 
hurried to Mdan to interview the author of "La Terre." 
A portion of Zola's declarations to M. Xau may well be 
given here: 


" I do not know what is thought in Paris of this protest which 
has brought me some very kind letters from my confreres, but 
it has stupefied me. I do not know those young men* They do 
not belong to my entourage, they have never sat at my table, they 
are not my friends. If they are disciples of mine and re- 
member I do not seek to make disciples they are so without 
my knowledge. Why then do they repudiate me ? The situation 
is original. It is as if a woman with whom a man never had any 
intercourse were to write him : c I have had quite enough of you, 
let us separate ! ' The man would certainly reply to that : 'It's 
all one to me.' Well, the position is very similar. 

" If friends of mine, if Maupassant, Huysmans, and C^ard, had 
addressed me in such language publicly, I should certainly have 
felt somewhat offended. But this declaration can have no such 
effect on me. I shall make no answer to it at all. ... It would 
be giving importance to a matter which has none. When I am 
fighting a theatrical battle I write an open letter to Sarcey because 
Saroey certainly exercises great authority. In some literary dis- 
cussions I have written in a similar way to Albert Wolff, because 
he is an old cTircmgueur to whom people listen. But whatever 
may be my feelings towards the five gentlemen who have signed 
the document we are speaking of, they must excuse me if I don't 
answer, for I have nothing to say to them. , , . One thing I can- 
not understand is why these young men should pass themselves off 
as soldiers of mine deserting my flag. The only one I know a 
very, very little is Bonnetain, whose 'Opium* I have read, and 
whose talent I esteem. He once called on me; and when he 
appeared before the Tribunal of Correctional Police, after ' Chariot 
s'amuse,' he wrote asking me to let him have a letter to be read in 
court. I sent him one, but I advised him not to use it, for the 
judges, I fancy, hold me in slight esteem. Well, I met Bonnetain 
again at Daudet's, at the ' Sapho * dinner, and that is all ! . . , 
The comical part of the affair is that people used to reproach 
me with what they called * my tail.' They were willing to tolerate 
what I wrote, but they refused to accept the productions of the 


young men who claimed to be my disciples though. I cried from 
the house roofs that I had none. * Cut your tail off! * people re- 
peated. Well, it is cut off at last It has taken itself off of its 
own accord, and now, perhaps, folk will be satisfied." * 

While conversing with M. Xau, Zola mentioned that some 
of his friends believed the manifesto to be an echo of the 
opinions of certain persons whom he held in high esteem, 
both personally and from a literary standpoint ; but he had 
reason to know that the persons in question were really 
grieved by the factum to which they had given neither in- 
spiration nor assent The allusion was in part to Alphonse 
Daudet, by reason of his friendship with Bonnetain, but 
more particularly to Edmond de Goncourt, as the latter's 
" Journal " explains. Goncourt' s house, his grewier, as one 
said in those days, had become the meeting-place of a 
number of young authors, who looked up to him much as 
others had looked up to Flaubert. And Goncourt, on read- 
ing the manifesto in " Le Figaro/' had immediately exclaimed, 
"Liable, why four of them belong to my grenier/"* It 
naturally occurred to him that Zola might think the plot 
had been hatched there, under his auspices, and he felt 
extremely annoyed. A journalist who called on Mm sug- 
gested an article showing that he had no responsibility in 
the matter; but Goncourt declined to hide behind others. 
If anything had to be said he would say it himself. How- 
ever, he went to dine at Champrosay with Daudet, and after 
they had decided that the manifesto was very badly written 
and outrageously insulting, they communicated privately 
with Zola, who was thus able to tell M. Xau that whatever 

i " Gil Bias," August 21, 1887. 

3 "Journal des Goncourt," Yol. Til, p. 206. 


might b mid elsewhere, he knew that " the certain persons 
whom he held in high esteem ** had nothing to do with 
tit affair. 

On the other hand, some minor literary men adhered to 
the protest, and the incident was so sedulously exaggerated 
by Zola's enemies that one might have imagined the mani- 
festo had come from novelists of high reputation instead of 
from beginners, who, with the exception of Bonnetain, had 
not yet half-won their spurs. The affair has been related 
in some detail here, first because a kind of legend has 
gathered round it, a legend repeated in many of the me- 
moirs issued after Zola's death, and secondly because it 
ultimately had a notable result : the nomination of Zola as 
& knight of the Legion of Honour. 

Before recounting how that occurred it must be men- 
tioned that ** La Terre ** was published in volume form late 
in 1887. 1 The attacks made upon it ever since the so-called 
^Manifesto of the Five w then acquired yet greater in- 
tensity, which a little later was checked somewhat by the 
uproar attending the decorations scandal in which President 
Gravy's son-in-law was implicated, followed by the Presi- 
dent's resignation, the election of Carnot, and the increase 
of the Boulangist propaganda. However, at every pause in 
that turmoil the denunciation of Zola began afresh. 

It was still going on when M. Edmond Lockroy, who had 
known the novelist in the old days of "Le Rappel," became 

1 " La Terra," Paris, Charpentier, 1887, 18mo, 519 pages. Some copies on 
Japan* Dutch, and India paper. One hundredth thousand in 1893 ; one 
hundred and thirty-fifth thousand in 1903. Illustrated edition : Marpon and 
Mammarion, n. 0% large 8vo, 472 pages ; wood-engravings after Dues, 
Bochegrosae, etc.; one hundred and fifty copies on Dutch paper with the en- 
gravings on India paper. 


Minister of Public Instruction. Married to Charles Hugo's 
widow, guardian of the great poet's grandchildren, artist, 
author, Garihaldian volunteer, politician, deputy, and minis- 
ter, M. Lockroy was and is still a man of very broad 
views. He had formed a poor opinion of the " Manifesto of 
the Five" at the time of its appearance, and he was dis- 
gusted by the ensuing attacks, which emanated for the 
most part from the reactionary press. In these circum- 
stances he resolved on a somewhat bold course, that of 
offering the red ribbon to the much-abused author, as an 
official recognition of his literary attainments, and as a kind 
of solatium for the insults heaped upon him. 

At the same time M. Lockroy realised that as Zola, an- 
gered by the behaviour of Bardoux in 1878, had then 
declared he would not accept a decoration, it would be 
advisable to sound him unofficially in the first instance. 
The Dq.inister ended by selecting as his intermediary a lady 
who knew the novelist well, and she at once repaired to 
M^dan to ascertain his views. 1 At her first words Zola 
began to protest, reminding her of the public declaration he 
had formerly made, and adding that if he now accepted the 
red ribbon he would surely cover himself with ridicule. 
But the minister's messenger insisted, pointing out, notably, 
that prejudiced and ignorant people were on all sides accus- 
ing him of deliberate immorality, even obscenity, and that 
his official nomination to the Legion of Honour might act 

1 The story is told on the authority of Madame Charpentier, wife of the 
publisher, hut it is somewhat doubtful whether the lady in question was her- 
self, though she and her husband knew M. Lockroy as well as Zola. If not, 
the intermediary may have been a lady related to a minister whose energy 
made him famous during the siege of Paris. There was such a lady who 
knew Zola well. English and American readers will doubtless regard the 
whole affair as being "very French." 


as a cheek on his insctlters and rehabilitate him in the eyes 
of the vulgar. Afc last Zola began to waver, and after con- 
sulting Ms wife, who favoured the proposal, he gave his 
assent to it At the same time, mindful of M. Bardoux' 
sWUy-shaUying, he insisted that he should have a formal 
promise fxom the minister immediately. It was given him ; 
and very soon afterwards, the time having come to draw up 
the list of those who should be decorated on the occasion of 
the National Fete that year, 1888, M. Lockroy brought 
Zola's name before the Council of Ministers. Later, the 
decree having been signed and gazetted, he personally fixed 
the red ribbon to Zola's buttonhole in the drawing-room of 
the lady who had acted as intermediary. 

She, it would appear, was not a little astonished some 
time tf texwards when on receiving a visit from the novelist 
h0 told her that he had decided to offer himself as a candi- 
date for the French Academy. And he explained the posi- 
tion thus ; *I had the choice of two paths, one leading to 
the r50gnition of my readers only, the other leading to 
official recognition also. I never troubled about the latter, 
but you turned me into that path, and I am not the man to 
halt half way on any road. As there is an Academy I shall 
offer myself as a candidate directly a suitable opportunity 
occurs. And," he added jocularly, "as there is a Senate 
also I may even offer myself as a candidate for that as 
well Why not ? Ste.~Beuve was a senator, and perhaps I 
myself shall be one." 

Neither of those aspirations was realised; and, in later 
years, even, Zola's decoration of the Legion of Honour was 
almost taken from him. It had come to Mm, not as some 
have said as the result of " Le Bve," which was not pub- 

Photo by Nadar 

Emile Zola, 1888-1890 


lished till some months afterwards, but as the result of " La 
Terre." Elsewhere, however, that same book had very dif- 
ferent consequences for another man, for it led to proceed- 
ings at law which ruined him, cast him into prison, and 
hastened his death. How that happened the following 
chapter will tell. 




Krst English translations of Zola Attacks on Zola in England The Vize- 
tisllys, glassmakers and printers Henry Vizetelly and his career His 
publishing business The six-shilling novel Ernest Vizetelly's work 
for Vizetelly & Co, His acquaintance with Zola His opinion of the 
Zola translations He becomes reader and editor to Vizetelly & Co. 
He partially expurgates the English version of " La Terre " "W. T. Stead 
solicits information from Yizetelly The sales of the Zola translations 
Th " National Vigilante " <f The Maiden Tribute " Publicity v. Se- 
cwcy Zola's aim Mendacity of some English newspapers Yizetelly's 
catakgw Samuel Snath, M, P., and " pernicious literature " A debate 
in the HGOS* of Commons More newspaper lies Vizetelly committed 
for trial -**The Dacaweron ** prosecuted The Government takes up 
the Viawtely prosecmtiom Vketlly*s letter to Sir A. K. Stephenson 
11 H*tw sav us from 0ar friends ! ** VueteUy** difficulties His trial, 
October, 1888 Purity of the rural districts of England The case 
stopped Sentence Yizetelly's undertaking respecting the Zola books 

Zola's view of the case Expurgation and reissue of the translations 

Yizetelly again summoned He assigns his property to his creditors 
Mr. George Moore on the " National Yigilants *'- Mr. Frank Harris's offer 

Ernest Vizetelly and the responsibility of the new trial Mr. Cock, 
Q. C. His notion of duty to a client The trial, May SO, 1889 The 
plea of "guilty" - Vizetell/s collapse Sir E. Clarke and Ernest Vize- 
telly Sentence on Henry Vizetelly He is sent to the wrong prison 
The legerdemain of the Prison Commissioners A question for the 
House of Commons A letter from Mr. Labouchere A memorial for 
Henry Yizetelly's release Robert Buchanan defends him His last 
years and death. 

THE earliest versions of Zola's novels in our language of- 
fered for sale in Great Britain were of American origin. 
Some American translations are ably done that is well 
known bnt the particular ones here referred to were for 


the most part ridiculous, full of errors, and so defaced by 
excisions and alterations as to give no idea of what the 
books might be like in French. There were translations of 
much greater merit in Germany, Italy, and Russia ; but until 
a Mr. Turner produced in London a version of " Au Bonheur 
des Dames," l the English reader, ignorant of Trench, really 
had no opportunity of forming any personal opinion of Zola's 
writings. He had to rest content with the views expressed 
in various newspapers and periodicals by men who had read 
Zola in the original. Among those who wrote on him in the 
English reviews were Mr. Andrew Lang and Mr. Henry 
James ; but most of the articles that appeared were conven- 
iently anonymous, and therefore, perhaps, essentially abu- 
sive, as, for instance, an unsigned paper in "Blackwood's 
Magazine, 1 * the writer of which, not content with attacking 
Zola's books, thought it as well to libel him as a man. At 
long intervals there appeared some article in his defence, 
some statement of his principles and his aims, the best of 
these being another anonymous paper called " The Literary 
Creed of mile Zola," 2 though even this had a foolishly 
worded " note " attached to it, showing how little Zola was 
understood by the average English editor. Such, then, was 
the position : a dozen or more worthless American versions 
on the market, and frequent attacks in reviews, magazines, 
and newspapers, when, in 1884, the first English series of 
Zola translations was begun by a London publisher, Henry 
Vizetelly, who, assisted by two of his sons, traded as 
" Vizetelly & Co." 

1 See cmte, p. 214. 

a The writer has a copy of this article, a very able one, cut from the pages 
of a review or magazine, which, unfortunately he has been unable to identify. 


Before proceeding further the writer desires to enter a 
plea jm? dtmo ma. He, like others, has his weak spot, and 
the prwent may he the only opportunity he will ever have 
of setting forth certain facts concerning his family, which, in 
spite of considerable association with English journalism 
tad literature, has frequently heen described chiefly in 
connection with Zola and his writings as Greek, Hunga- 
rian, Polish, Italian, or Jewish. That the Vizetellys are of 
Italian origin is indisputable, hut one may well inquire how 
long it takes to make a family English ? Some are accepted 
as such after a few years. Surely, then, four centuries 
ought to suffice. 

The forerunners of Henry Vizetelly came from Yenice 1 to 
England in the spacious days of Queen Elizabeth ; and until 
the end of the seventeenth century were concerned in the 
manufacture of glass. One of them became connected with 
son* works established at Lambeth in or about 1673 by 
Gewgt Vflliers, second Duke of Buckingham. The first 
sheets of blown glass for mirrors and coach-windows made in 
Great Britain came from those works, which Evelyn visited, 
as mentioned in his "Diary." But in the early part of the 
eighteenth century the Vizetellys became printers, and the 
family papers describe them as of "the parish of St. Bride's 
in the city of London." The Vizetelly, or Vizzetelli, of 
Elkabethan days having been called James (Jacopo), it 
became until recent years the family rule that the eldest 
son of the eldest son should bear that Christian name. 

1 Researches made by the late James T. G. Vizetelly, who was long tlie 
senior member of the family (1818-1897), traced it "back to Ravenna, whence 
it removed to Venice. Henry Vizetelly, when preparing his autobiography, had 
no family documents before Mm and fell into various errors in his account of 
Ms forerunners. 


Another name, given to daughters, was the Biblical one of 
Hehetabel, a survival, perhaps, of some family Puritanism 
in Commonwealth days. But if there were a Puritan, 
there was certainly no Jewish strain in the family, the 
men of which in the eighteenth century married girls with 
good old English names, some of them London born and 
others coming from counties as far away as Cheshire. 
Thus, although the Vizetellys seem to have never forgotten 
their origin and to have cultivated friendship with sundry 
notable Italians who settled in England, it is certain that, 
as generation followed generation, English blood predomi- 
nated in their veins. 

The status of the eighteenth-century Vizetellys as printers 
is difficult to determine. They were apparently in fair 
circumstances, but the writer knows of no eighteenth-cen- 
tury book bearing their imprint. He believes they were 
associated in business with others whose names alone 
appeared. The first found actually trading in his own 
name was James Henry Vketelly, 1 born in 1790, and son 
of James Visetelly, "printer, of St. Bride's parish and of 

1 Even his business, that of Vizetelly, Branstcra & Co., printers and 
publishers, was at one time known merely by the name of the "Co./* that 
is as Whitehead's, though J, H. Vizetelly was managing partner. He had 
served his apprenticeship with the Coxes, and did not take np his freedom 
(his father and grandfather had been freemen of the city before him) till 
September, 1827. He was a man of considerable gifts ; he wrote for several 
periodicals, produced a variety of verse (privately printed by himself) initiated 
the famous "Boy's Own Book," as well as " Cruikshank's Comic Almanack" 
of which he became the "Rigdnm Funnidos," and was one of the best ama- 
teur actors of his time. He was very intimate with Edmund Kean, whom 
he greatly resembled in appearance, and it is said that more than once when 
Kean was hopelessly drunk he took his place on the boards. Such at least 
was the story often told to the writer by his grandmother (James Henry's 
widow) and expressly confirmed to him by an old family friend, Mr* Lem- 
priere, son of the Leinpriere of the " Classical Dictionary." 


Duke Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields." James Henry's eldest 
son, James Thomas George, was apprenticed to him as a 
printer; and his second son, Henry Richard, after acquiring 
a knowledge of the same trade, was placed first with 
Bonner and afterwards with Orrin Smith, two noted wood- 
engravers. He proved one of the latter's best pupils, and 
ultimately joined his brother James in the printing and 
engraving firm known as Vizetelly Brothers. 

WMle thus engaged, Henry Vizetelly 1 was approached 
by Mr. Herbert Ingram, a former news-agent of Notting- 
ham, on the subject of founding an illustrated newspaper. 
The outcome (1842) was "The Illustrated London News," 
the first journal of its kind in any country. Vizetelly 
afterwards quarrelled with Ingram, and, in 1843, in con- 
junction with Mr. Andrew Spottiswoode, started an opposi- 
tion ptper, ^The Pictorial Times/' to which some notable 
men, including Douglas Jerrold and Thackeray, contributed. 
As, however, the printing and engraving business which 
he carried on with his brother was becoming a large one, 
Yizetelly eventually severed his connection with journalism 
for some years, and either with his brother, or later on his 
own account, produced a large number of illustrated books, 
which from typographical and other technical standpoints 
were often among the best of their time. He was also 
(this may interest American readers) the first to introduce 
Poe's " Tales and through C. H. Clarke Mrs. Stowe's 
"Uncle Tom's Cabin, 3 * to the English public; and, having 

1 He lias related the greater part of his career in his "Glances Back 
through Seventy Years," and an account of it, of some length, will be found 
in the "Dictionary of National Biography. 1 ' Bat for the purpose 'which the 
present writer has in view he considers it as well to recapitulate its chief 


virtually discovered Birket Foster, he also did much to 
popularise Longfellow in England. Perhaps Ms best work 
as a wood-engraver was that done for the edition of a Evan- 
geKne," illustrated with Foster's designs. 

Vizetelly also took a prominent part in the agitation for 
the repeal of the taxes on knowledge, such as the news- 
paper stamp and the paper duty, being honorary secretary 
to the society for the removal of the latter impost ; and in 
1855, conjointly with David Bogue, the publisher of most 
of the books he printed, he started " The Illustrated Times, 1 * 
on the staff of which, as had been the case with "The 
Pictorial Times," there were again many notable writers 
and artists. 1 This newspaper ran a very successful course 
for some years, but about 1860 Vizetelly after losing a 
large sum over another venture, "The Welcome Guest" 
sold his share in the proprietorship to Ingram of "The 
Illustrated London News." Ultimately, in 1865, he en- 
tered into an agreement to represent the last-named 
journal on the continent of Europe, with headquarters in 
Paris, to which city he removed with his family. He saw 
virtually all there was to be seen there during the last 
years of the Empire, the subsequent siege by the Germans, 
and, later, the Commune. He afterwards acted for "The 
Illustrated London News" as a "special" in different 
parts of Europe, and became British wine juror at various 
international exhibitions, for he had made a particular 
study of wines in the regions where they were produced, 

1 Among others, James Hannay, Edmund Yates, Eobert Brough, G-. A. 
Sala, Sutherland Edwards, J. C, Parkinson, Augustus Mayhew, Frederick 
and James Greenwood, Tom Robertson, John Hollingshead, "Phiz," Birket 
Foster, Henry Meadows, Gustave Dore*, Charles Keene, Edmond Morin, 
Gustave Janet, the Claxton sisters, Matt. Morgan, etc. 


mad wrote on them at length both in "The Pall Mall 
Gazette ** aad in a series of popular volumes. Other sub- 
jects also attracted his pen; the best of his numerous 
literary efforts being probably a work on the famous Dia- 
mond Necklace scandal, and another on Berlin as it was 
when Bismarck had constituted the new German Empire. 

Such, then, was the man who in 1880 joined the ranks 
of the London publishers. He was at that time sixty years 
old but still full of energy, and he gave great personal 
attention to his business, though, as already mentioned, he 
had the assistance of two sons. He had been twice mar- 
ried, and of a numerous family four sons and a daughter 
were then living. The sons whom he had with Mm were 
the younger ones, Arthur and Frank Vketelly ; * their elder 
brothers, then abroad, being Edward 2 and Ernest, the 
present writer, who for convenience proposes to refer to 
bixoadf by his Christian name throughout this particular 

* Arthur and Frank Horace Yizetelly, both born at Kensington, the former 
on October Si, 1855, the latter on April 2, 1864. Both educated at East- 
bourne and ia France, The former has written and edited various English 
educational works and periodicals. The latter, resident in New York since 
1801, has since become supervisor of the editorial work, and secretary of the 
editorial board of the " Jewish Encyclopedia," and associate editor of the 
*' Standard Dictionary," besides helping to produce several other well-known 
works of reference. In 1901, the Governor of Bermuda having given him 
special access to the Boer prisoners, he wrote several papers on their condition. 
He has also written on Zola in American periodicals. 

* Edward Henry Vizetelly, born at Chiswick, January 1, 1847, educated 
at Eastbourne and St. Qmer, war and special correspondent, editor of " The 
Times of Egypt," Cairo, and afterwards on "Le Journal," Paris. He came 
to London about 1893, worked there as an author and journalist, and trans- 
lated some of Zola's novels. He died in 1903. He had been orderly officer 
to General Garibaldi in 1870, and later an officer of Bashi-bazouks under 
Mouktar Pasha. "While in the East he had assumed the pseudonym of 
"Bertie Clere," by which he was generally known, there. 


One of the first ventures of the new business, a series of 
sketches of English society, entitled " The Social Zoo," and 
published in parts, was badly launched and dropped before 
completion ; but some sections of it, by E. (X Grenville- 
Murray, attracted great attention and sold widely on being 
reissued in volume form. Sala's "Paris Herself Again** 
and other books were also very successful; but when 
Vizetelly who by reason of his long residence in Paris 
took great interest in French literature produced a series 
of cheap translations of works of high repute in France 
novels and tales by Daudet, Theuriet, About, Malot, Cher- 
buliez, George Sand, Mdrimde, and others there was little 
or no demand for them, though a large amount of money 
was spent in advertisements. Indeed it soon appeared that 
if French fiction was to be offered to English readers at all 
it must at least be sensational; and Vizetelly therefore 
started a cheap series of Gaboriau's detective stories, which 
found a large and immediate market. The business gradu- 
ally expanded, and before long, in addition to miscellaneous 
works by Sala, Grenville-Murray, and others, the firm took 
up English fiction in a new form. 

Mr. George Moore, the novelist, having found the circu- 
lating libraries opposed to some of his books, protested 
vigorously against the three-volume system which placed 
English fiction at the libraries' mercy. He held that all 
novels ought to be sold direct to the public, and many 
other writers agreed with him. Mr. Moore became- one 
of Vizetelly & Co/s authors, and the firm thereupon put 
the theory of direct sale to the public into practice. They 
abandoned the three-volume system altogether, issuing their 
new novels in one volume only ; and it was Henry Vizetelly 


who feed the price at six shillings, to be lowered, after the 
earlier editions, to three shillings and sixpence those 
being the figures which still prevail today. When therefore 
in later years the three-volume novel was finally slain it was 
somewhat impudent on the part of certain publishers to 
issue advertisements claiming all the merit of the change ; 
for long before they or others joined the movement, Viz- 
etelly & Co., as their catalogues show, were issuing a whole 
series of novels at the popular price, and quoting, in cordial 
approval of their initiative, an extract from an article in 
* The Saturday Review/ Doubtless the one-volume system 
has not done all that was predicted for it, but it has cer- 
tainly been an improvement on the old one, and it may be 
fairly claimed that Mr. George Moore and Henry Yizetelly 
were ita pioneers* 

After the establishment of Ms publishing business, 
YiieteUy had communicated with Ms son Ernest, 1 who 
WES then living in Paris and had friends and acquaintances 
among writers, publishers, and booksellers there. Several 
suggestions which he made in the course of the next few 
years were adopted by the firm. However the idea of 
publishing English translations of Zola's works did not 
originate with him. As a journalist he had to keep him- 
self informed respecting everything that occurred in Paris ; 

1 Ernest Alfred Yizetelly, born at Kensington, November 29, 1853. 
Educated at Eastbourne and at the Lyce*e Imperial Bonaparte, Paris. Became 
a war correspondent (youngest on record) in 1870. Was in Paris during part 
of the siege ; passed through the German lines to Versailles ; subsequently 
joined Chanz/s army and described his overthrow at Le Mans and retreat on, 
Laval ("Pall Mall Gazette"). Was in Paris throughout the Commune, and 
remained on the Continent for many years, chiefly as an English newspaper 
correspondent, but from time to time co-operated with his father in the 
latter's studies on wines in France and other countries. 


and lie was fairly familiar with what had been done, 
written, and said there over a long term of years, particu- 
larly as even in his school-days he had begun to assist 
his father as a newspaper correspondent. Thus he was 
already acquainted with the salient features of Zola's 
career, the novelist's long and arduous battle for mastery* 
He had not read all the Eougon-Macquart volumes then 
published, but he had followed the exponent of Naturalism 
in his various newspaper campaigns, and he had seen most 
of the plays based on his books. Again, he was the only 
member of his family who, at that time, had ever met the 
novelist. Not long after the Franco-German "War Zola 
had been pointed out to him by an artist as " the man who 
had championed Manet"; and since then Vizetelly had 
seen and elbowed him on various occasions in places of 
public resort. But only once had there been any real 
conversation between them, in the presence of others, at 
the Theatre des Folies-Bergfere, with which Vizetelly had 
been for a time connected. 1 

It may be added that Vizetelly's life in France had in- 
clined him to the outspokenness of the French, and that 
experience had shown him there was much rottenness in 
Parisian society. Thus he had no personal prejudice against 
Zola's writings, which contained, he knew, a vast amount of 
truth. But he also knew, likewise by experience, that 
whenever any horrible scandal arose in Paris, the English 
newspapers would only print a small portion of the truth, 

i "The Lorer's Progress," by JE. A. Yizetelly, London, Chatto; New- 
York, Brentano, 1901, Book II, Chap. V. In that novel the Folies 
Bergere is called the "Paradis Paiisien," Zola "Rota," and his book 
"L'Asaommoir," "La Matraque." 


aad he, as a correspondent^ was thus often debarred from 
making a plain statement of facts of general interest, such as 
sometimes affected the moral status of men of very high 
position. Moreover, although Vizetelly had left England in 
his boyhood, and in subsequent years had only now and 
again spent a few days or weeks there (apart from one 
sojourn of about twelve months* duration), his own work, 
and the frequent perusal of English books and publications 
had kept Mm to a certain point in touch with his kinsfolk. 
And, so far as he could judge, English literature, like Eng- 
lish journalism, was under the thumb of Mrs. Grundy. He 
had seen no sign indicating that Naturalism would even 
secure a hearing in England. When, therefore, in 1884, he 
suddenly heard that Vketelly & Co. were about to produce 
** L'Assommoir w and ** Nana " in an English dress, it seemed 
to him that the firm was taking an audacious course, and 
he did not hesitate to write and say so. He was answered, 
that, being resident abroad, he did not fully understand the 
position j and, as some difficulty had arisen with the trans- 
lation of ** L'Assommoir," he was asked to translate a small 
portion of it, some chapter towards the end of the book, 
which he did. That, for the time, was the extent of his 
share in the Zola translations. 

The idea of publishing those translations originated, then, 
with Henry Vizetelly, unless, indeed, it was suggested to 
him by somebody else. In 1885 his son Ernest, on going 
to London, found the firm doing a large and increasing 
business. In addition to French and English writers, several 
Eussian authors, Tolstoi, Dostoieffsky, and Lermontoff, 
who were followed a little later by Gogol, had been added 
to the firm's catalogue. A series of reprints of the old 


dramatists, the well-known "Mermaid Series," was being 
projected ; l and the Zola translations, so far as they then 
went, were in wide demand. This surprised Ernest Vizetelly, 
whose anticipations had been so different But he yielded 
to evidence, and even began to think that there was at last 
some prospect of English people dropping the hypocrisy 
which had clung to them so long and looking unpleasant 
facts in the face. 

He returned to Paris, where he remained till 1887, when 
various reasons induced him to take up his residence in 
London. He had married some years previously, and 
though his wife was French he particularly desired that his 
children should retain his nationality. Moreover, he now 
had the offer of a great deal of work from his father, who 
was projecting various reprints of French eighteenth-century 
books, as well as expensive and sumptuous editions of " The 
Heptameron," " The Decameron," and the works of Kabelais. 
Some thousands of pounds were spent on those under- 
takings, but only the first-named eventually saw the light. 2 
Arriving in London, Ernest Vizetelly became one of the 
readers and editors of his father's firm ; but for one reason 
or another he still had little to do with the Zola translations. 
His father contemplating a new edition of the Gramont 
Memoirs, he revised the translation alleged to have been 
edited by Sir Walter Scott, and corrected some scores of 

1 Vizetelly & Co. published the first fifteen roluraes of this series, which 
on the firm going into liquidation was acquired by Mr. Fisher Unwin. 

2 The edition in five Tolumes with the Freudenberg and Duncker plates, 
known as that of the " Society of English Bibliophiliats/ 1 but really issued 
by Mr. J. C. Nimmo after Vizetelly & Co. had gone into liquidation. Professor 
Saintsbury wrote for this edition an essay on the French work; but the actual 
translation of the tales was made by Mr. J. S. Chartres, and the present 
writer supplied the annotation, the memoir of Queen Margaret, etc. 


errors which he found in it For the rest, his time was 
largely spent in researches respecting the proposed version 
of * The Heptameron/* of which he was editor. 

Meanwhile Vketelly & Co. were still issuing translations 
of modem French fiction, and Mr. George Moore, having 
occasion to go to Paris, spoke on the firm's hehalf to Zola 
respecting *' La Terre," which book the novelist was then 
preparing. An arrangement was made for the sale of the 
British rights to Vizetelly & Co., who then knew virtually 
nothing of the work, apart from the fact that it would deal 
with the French peasantry. Some time afterwards, however, 
Zola supplied a brief outline of his book in a letter which 
has been already quoted. 1 Then various delays ensued, 
several months elapsing before proofs of the earlier chapters 
were forwawled to Vizetelly & Ca Those proofs were 
handed to a translator with whom some difficulty arose, in 
such wise that they were transferred to another, and Ernest 
Vizetelly was requested to read and check the English 
proofs, a task which he occasionally undertook in connec- 
tion with various translations. He was immediately struck 
by the boldness of Zola's story, which seemed to surpass in 
outspokenness any of the novelist's previous works. And at 
the very outset he deemed certain excisions and alterations 

For instance, he found one of the characters, Hyacinthe 
Fouan, called by the nickname of "Jesus Christ," and 
afflicted with a nasty infirmity. The nickname did not 
particularly surprise him, for during the many years he had 
spent in Paris, he had known more than one young artist 
cultivating, notably as regards hair and beard, a resemblance 

i Sea ante, . 231. 


to the traditional portraits of the Christ, and going by that 
nickname both in the studios and the caKs frequented by 
artists. It seemed to him quite possible that Zola had 
found it among the peasantry whom he described. But, 
however that might be, Vizetelly felt that the nickname 
would give offence to English readers, and so he did not 
hesitate to expunge it from the proofs submitted to him. 
He felt also, that although Hyacinthe's infirmity might be 
true tt ife, it would also give offence to people who no 
longer -ead Sterne, and who knew little or nothing of 
Rabelais. Accordingly expurgation again ensued. 

But as successive instalments of the proofs reached Ernest 
Vizetelly, he found in them a good deal of matter, which in 
his opinion needed " toning " for the English reader. And 
he was confronted by a difficulty which pursued him sub- 
sequently when he himself translated some of Zola's works ; 
that is to say, the French proofs arrived in sections, the 
translation was supplied in the same manner, and it was 
therefore difficult to determine what incidents and facts 
might be really essential, and how far expurgation might 
be carried without rendering the book unintelligible. Vize- 
telly spoke on the matter to one of his brothers, and ulti- 
mately he put the work on one side, deciding to wait for its 
completion. Considerable delay ensued in the publication 
of the translation. Meantime, towards the close of 1887, 
the original work appeared in Paris, and was virulently 
attacked by Zola's enemies ; while a rumour, subsequently 
contradicted, spread to the effect that translations had been 
stopped in various countries. It therefore seemed advisable 
to proceed cautiously. Finally the matter was laid before 
Henry Vizetelly, the proofs of the English version were 


examined from beginning to end, and in conjunction with 
his son Emeafc, he struck out or modified a very large 
number of passages, with the result that much of the 
work had to be reimposed* It may be said, then, that the 
translation as published was undoubtedly an expurgated 


About this time, that is in March, 1888, Mr. W. T. Stead, 
then editor of The Pall Mall Gazette," who had made him- 
self notorious some time previously by a series of articles on 
w The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon," applied to Vize- 
telly & Co. for some information respecting the sales of 
the various translations from the French, which the firm 
was publishing, and which certainly circulated widely and 
attracted great attention. When the matter was laid before 
Henry "Vizetelly, Ms on Arthur, who took a large part in 
th management of the business, suggested that the request 
should not be entertained, for, said he, it was a very unusual 
one, and publishers were not in the habit of supplying the 
public with all sorts of particulars about their affairs. 
That, at the time in question, was quite true ; but Henry 
Vketelly, who saw no objection to the request, supplied Mr. 
Stead with an article in which he gave numerous particulars 
concerning the sales of his publications. The article, as the 
sequel showed, was somewhat injudiciously worded in 
various respects. For instance, it conveyed an impression 
that unlike the crude and mangled American versions of 
Zola which were then in the market the Vizetelly trans- 
lations of that author were absolutely unmutilated. As a 
matter of fact, none of them was an exact Replica of the 
original, all had been expurgated more or less, though care 
had invariably been taken to preserve the continuity of the 


narrative. Further, though Vizetelly had very good grounds 
for asserting that he reckoned it a bad week when the sale 
of the Zola translations fell helow a thousand volumes, this 
statement, which seemed at first sight to indicate a very 
large circulation, 1 was again indiscreet, and was eagerly 
seized hold of and magnified hy those who were already 
lying in wait to destroy him. 

Of the inner workings of that conspiracy the writer might 
perhaps say a good deal ; but for the purposes of this narra- 
tive, the facts which appeared on the surface are sufficient. 
A campaign was started, chiefly against Vketelly & Co., and 
ostensibly for the purpose of protecting boys and girls, 
against what was called " pernicious literature." A society 
styling itself the " National Vigilance Association " eventu- 
ally took the matter in hand. Its secretary, the person 
usually representing it in public, was a man named Coote ; 
the agent for its publications was a Protestant fanatic 
named Kensit; 2 among those who gave it their counte- 
nance was W. T. Stead, then, as already mentioned, editor of 
"The Pall Mall Gazette." The publications of Kensit on 
" The High Church Confessional," and those of Stead on "The 
Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon," would have seemed 
to indicate that both Kensit aftd Stead favoured the doc- 
trine of outspokenness or publicity to which Zola gave effect 
in his novels, the doctrine which he summed up in the 

1 About this time Yizetelly & Co. were selling no fewer than eighteen of 
Zola's books. And a sale of one thousand copies a week, representing one 
of fifty-two thousand a year, would not really be large in a publisher's estima- 
tion. It would represent an average of less than three thousand copies a year 
for each work, but of course the newer volumes sold more largely than the 
older ones. 

* "Truth," September 22, 1898, 



words, **Let tU be set forth so that all may be healed/* 
But although in the estimation of Eensit and Stead it was 
quite right that they should speak out, the idea of allowing 
Zola the same privilege was nonsense. He was Belial, 
whereas of them it might be said : " Mark the perfect men, 
and behold the upright** Thus they might circulate de- 
scriptions of vice, even allow them, as in the case of " The 
Maiden Tribute," to be hawked about the streets in penny 
numbers l ; but Zola must not picture vice in his books. 

Among the members of the so-called " National Vigilance 
Association" were various parsons and priests who naturally 
abominated such an infidel as Zola, and some of whom sub- 
sequently traduced him freely. These might accept the 
outspokenness of a Stead, but, generally speaking, they 
represented the doctrine of reticence and secrecy as opposed 
to that of publicity. Theirs was the policy, pursued through 
the ages, of wrapping everything up, cloaking everything 
over, and they were lost in anger, horror, and amazement 
when they found a different course being pursued. They 
ignored Zola's position altogether, though for years he had 
been calling to them and those who resembled them : " You 
claim to reform the world, you preach and you prate ; but 
although your endeavours may be honest you do little or no 
good. Evil exists on all sides, society is rotten at the core ; 
but you merely cover up abominations, you even feign at 
times to ignore their existence, though they lie little below 

1 "For more than a week, until ' The Daily Telegraph ' took the matter in 
hand, the sale of * The Maiden Tribute ' converted London into a pandemo- 
nium. None who lived in the vicinity of the Strand at that time will forget 
the shouting of the vendors of the obscenity often children only twelve 
years of age." George Moore, on the "New Censorship of Literature," in 
"The New York Herald," London edition, July 28, 1889. 


the surface and poison all around them. The system of 
reticence and concealment which you pursue is a profound 
mistake. It is one of the many consequences of that 
system that thousands of girls are cast every year into the 
aims of seducers, that thousands of young men kneel at the 
feet of harlots. Abortion is practised among the married as 
among the unmarried. Drunkenness is in your midst 
Your prisons are full. Your gibbets and guillotines are 
always in use. Cheating and swindling are commonplaces 
of your every-day life. Well, I am resolved to tear the veil 
asunder, to set forth everything, to conceal nothing. I shall 
shock the world undoubtedly, but it is only by bringing 
things to light, by disgusting people with themselves and 
their surroundings, that there will be a possibility of 
remedying the many evils which prey on the community 
at large* Eighteen hundred years have elapsed since the 
carpenter of Nazareth walked the earth. You and your 
forerunners have had those eighteen hundred years at your 
disposal. What have you done in them? How much, or 
rather how little real good have you effected with all your 
organisations, your great authority, your exceeding wealth, 
your devotion, your piety, your talent, which at times has 
blossomed into genius? You have extirpated nothing 
whatever ; your system has tended chiefly to the dissemi- 
nation of hypocrisy and cant ; you have failed egregiously ; 
and to explain your failure you preach the ridiculous doc- 
trine of the Fall, invented expressly to account for the 
impotency of priestcraft. I have nothing to say as yet 
on the subject of your belief in a future state, of your 
system of rewards or penalties after life, for good or evil 
conduct in the world, though it is one, half threat and half 


bribe, fear which there should be no occasion. But I take 
human society as it is, and by exposing the errors of its 
ways I hope to set afoot, to encourage among practical 
reformers, a movement of social regeneration, which will 
perhaps achieve, in a few centuries, a happier result than 
you, even though appealing to the supernatural, have 
achieved in so many. And in any case I intend to try, 
whatever abuse you may ihower on me, whatever mud you 
may fling at me, mud which will some day, perhaps, recoil 
upon yourselves." 

But how could men, trained to teach one and another 
superstition, wrapt in all the prejudices of their heredity 
and their caste, accept such arguments as those even if they 
had heard of them 1 The mere idea that man might regener- 
ate himself without the aid of the supernatural was impious 
to their minds ; the idea of stating the truth plainly, of rous- 
ing people by shocking them, was horrible to their delicacy 
of feeling, for they belonged to a white-livered generation, 
whence all robustness had departed. Perhaps if this 
Zola had been one of themselves they might have tolerated 
him, but he did not bow to the supernatural, his creed was 
different, and he was therefore a rival, an enemy, particu- 
larly as he contemplated a world whence they would be 
banished, as it would need none of their ministrations. 

Thus the campaign began and soon found an echo in the 
newspapers. At that time probably there were not twenty 
journalists in all England who had read Zola's essays and 
critical papers in which he defined his position and the 
purport of his novels. In the latter, as is well known, he 
abstained from preaching. There is nothing of the nature 
of a sermon in the whole series of " Les Rougon-Macquart " 


until one reaches "Le Docteur Pascal"; and one must 
admit that, although Zola had freely expounded his views 
elsewhere, the omission of those views from his novels 
was detrimental to him and them among those people who 
could not rightly understand any exposure of vice unless 
it were accompanied hy preaching. Had he preached, the 
clergy, so many of whom believe preaching to be the chief 
function of their ministry, might well have been on his 
side, and even " Blackwood's Magazine " might then have 
hesitated to describe him as a man without a conscience. 
But he contented himself with picturing vice as vile, and 
the viler he made it appear, the more was he abused, 
the more was he accused of wallowing in it, of giving 
full rein to filthy libidinous propensities for the express 
purpose of corrupting all who read him ! That charge was 
repeated widely by the English press, as is shown by the 
hundreds of cuttings from London and provincial news- 
papers in the writer's possession. And Vizetelly & Co. 
were accused of having deliberately chosen "the very 
worst" of Zola's books for translation. 

As a matter of fact, in 1888 they were selling all the 
novels that Zola had then written, with the exception of 
"Les Mystferes de Marseille," "La Confession de Claude,** 
and "Le Rve," which kst only appeared in Paris in the 
latter part of that year. The publication of those books 
had been going on for four years, unchallenged. Each 
new volume as it appeared was priced at six: shillings, 
and subsequently lowered to three shillings and sixpence. 
A few volumes, in picture boards, were sold at two shillings 
and sixpence. But the critics rushed upon "The Soil," 
the English version of "La Terre," and one man, who 


can never have compared it with the original, had the 
Impudence to assert that it was " an almost word for word 
translation of Zok's bestial book/* Readers who had never 
seen Vinetelly & Ca's catalogue were also allowed to infer 
that the firm traded exclusively in "pornographic litera- 
ture/* Now, in that catalogue, two hundred and forty 
works were enumerated, and the Zola volumes were eighteen 
in number. But it may be said that other books were 
denounced also, the translations of Flaubert's "Madame 
Bovary" and * Salammbo * ; Goncourt's "Germinie Lacer- 
teui: w and *< Renfe Mauperin " ; Gautier's Mile, de Maupin " ; 
Murger's " Vie de Bohtoe "; Maupassant's " Bel-Ami" and 
"TJne Vie"; Daudet's "Sapho"; Paul Bourget's "Grime 
d'Amour" and Ms "Cruelle Eiigme," which last the firm 
had issued in consequence of a laudatory notice in the staid 
old ** Athenieum," surely the last journal in the world 
to recommend anything suggestive of pornography. But 
counting even all the works belonging more or less to 
the French realistic schools which Vketelly & Co. issued, 
one reached only a total of about thirty, leaving some two 
hundred and ten books of other classes. Thirteen of those 
were certainly volumes of " The Mermaid Series of the old 
Dramatists" which some anonymous scribes likewise regarded 
as t pornographic " in that hour when cant and hypocrisy 
poured venom on virtually every form of literature that had 
not received the imprimatur of Pecksniff & Company. 

The public having been prepared for developments, the 
question of " pernicious literature " was brought before the 
House of Commons by one of its members, Mr. Samuel 
Smith, who sat for Flintshire. He had married the daughter 
of a clergyman, and had a reputation for extreme piety. He 


was described at the time as " an enthusiast without enthu- 
siasm, with a tall, expansive frame, a huge beard, a placid- 
life-like expression, and a mild feminine voice, 1 ' 1 which, said 
another journal, was "peculiarly suited to the expression of 
lamentation." 2 There was some fear, it seems, that there 
might be a poor attendance at the debate on the motion he 
meant to submit, indeed a " count out " was feared, tut 
arrangements were made to keep a house for the occasion, 
when the aspect of the benches was apparently such as the 
following diagram indicates : 

# * * * 

# * 

Mr. Smith 

* * * # 


**** * ** * * 

# * * * 

[From the "Pall Mail Gazette," May 10, 1888.] 

Thus, of an assembly numbering between six and seven 
hundred members, just forty were found sufficiently inter- 

i Notts Daily Express/' May 10, 1888. 
"Pall Mall Gazette," May 9, 1888. 


ested in the morals of their constituents to discuss the motion 
submitted by Mr. Smith, which was: "That this House 
deplores the rapid spread of demoralising literature in this 
country, and is of opinion that the law against obscene pub- 
lications and indecent pictures and prints should be vigor- 
ously enforced and, if necessary, strengthened." In the 
speech with which the member for Flintshire opened the 
debate he did not hesitate to describe Henry Vizetelly as 
**the chief culprit in the spread of pernicious literature "; 
and, according to a " Pall Mall Gazette n report, which he 
never contradicted, he said of the works of Zola that * nothing 
more diabolical had ever been written by the pen of man ; 
they were only fit for swine, and those who read them must 
turn, their minds into cesspools,** 1 In this fashion does 
the Puritan prate when he goes on the warpath. For the 
lest, Mr, Smith talked de omni re sdbili, * flinging Ms ac- 
cusations broadcast All kinds of literature, including daily 
newspapers, came under his ban. He wanted everything 
books, magazines, and newspapers, to be subject to some 
sort of restraint" He spoke in the "spirit which as- 
sumes that what is evilly suggestive to itself must be 
evilly suggestive to others." But as was added by the 
journal from which these remarks are quoted: 2 "What 
sort of literature should we have if it were all brought 
down to such a level as would satisfy the ascetic tastes 
of the Smiths ? Where would the Bible be ? What would 
become of Shakespeare?" 

1 That passage is not given in a reprint of the speech issued by the " Na- 
tional VigOants," but it is inconceivable that a reporter should have invented 
it. Besides, virtually the same words as those given above appeared in an 
account of the speech in "The Birmingham Daily Mail/' May 9, 1888. 

2 tl TheScotsman, n MaylO, 1888. 


After Mr. Smith's motion had been seconded by Mr. T. W. 
Russell, and endorsed by Sir Robert Fowler and Mr. De 
Lisle, another member, Mr. (afterwards Sir F, S.) Powell, 
leaving French novels on one side, called attention to certain 
circulars "headed with Scriptural texts and looking like 
religious tracts" which were circulated in English homes, 
apropos of the spread of contagious disease in India, 
and which, in his opinion, were calculated to do much, 

Then came the Government spokesman, Mr. Henry Mat- 
thews, one of the most unpopular Home Secretaries that 
Great Britain has known since the time of the Walpole 
under whose effete administration the public tore down the 
railings of Hyde Park. Mr. Matthews, a lawyei and a 
Roman Catholic, was subsequently given a peerage ; but in 
1888 he sat in the House of Commons for the city of Bir- 
mingham. He agreed very largely with what Mr. Smith had 
said, and he asserted that "in comparing French modern 
literature with classical literature it had to be borne in mind 
that, while the latter was written with no evil purpose (!), the 
former was written with the object of directing attention to 
the foulest passions of which human nature was capable, and 
to depict them in the most attractive forms * an allega- 
tion which, applied to Zola's works, can only be described as 
astounding. But the Home Secretary also denounced the 
" penny dreadfuls," the quack advertisements, and the full 
reports of divorce cases which appeared in the daily press. 
And on the question of instituting prosecutions he said : 

The reason why the law was not more frequently put in force 
was the difficulty that was experienced in getting juries to draw a 
hard and fast line, and to convict in all cases that crossed that 


line. He had given careful attention to this question, and he 
should deprecate handing over to the Public Prosecutor, or any- 
body dae> th task of deciding what was the straight and narrow 
Mn which divided what was punishable, criminal, and obscene 
within the meaning of the law, and what was merely indelicate 
and coaim The public judgment was a safer guide than that of 
way official, and if the general moral sense of the community did 
not compel individuals to prosecute, BO good would be done by 
trying to create an artificial moral sense by the action of the 
Public Prosecutor. . . . Serious evils arose from the failure of 
attempts to obtain convictions. So far, however, as he could in- 
fluence the Public Prosecutor, who was, to some extent, indepen- 
dent of any Public Office and acted on his own discretion, he would 
certainly urge prosecutions in any cases in which it did not appear 
that more harm than good would result. ... He was sure, how- 
ever, that the hon, Member and all those who had honest con- 
victions would not shrink from the alight personal inconvenience 
of putting the law in motion in any case of real public mischief." 

The debate was continued by three or four members, one 
of whom, Mr. H. J. Wilson (Holmfirth) apologetically and 
naively declared with respect to the pious circulars on the 
working of the Contagious Diseases Act, of which Mr. 
Powell had complained, that their distribution was the only 
method of making the truth known, and that the only way 
to stop them would be to put an end to the horrible system 
that rendered their dissemination necessary. To this Zola, 
if he had been present, might have retorted that the circula- 
tion of the plain statements of fact contained in his books 
was likewise, in his estimation, the only way to make known 
the degradation of society at large, in order that remedies 
might be applied. 

Mr. Smith's motion was carried unanimously, however, 


by the forty gentlemen present, matters being left In this 
position: The Government hesitated to institute pros- 
ecutions, and thought that private individuals should 
do so* 

Meanwhile the campaign went on. Mr. Smith wrote a 
letter to the newspapers ; another came from Lord Mount- 
Temple ; and the press, with few exceptions, endorsed every- 
thing that was said by the Commoner and the nobleman. 
The vigilant " Guardian " of the Church of England availed 
itself of the occasion to thunder against Sir Richard Burton 
and his "Arabian Nights"; "The Tablet * of the Roman 
Catholics jesuitically signified its approval of the agitation, 
because Zola's whole tendency was " suspected " (!) to be 
immoral ; the conscientious Nonconformist journals, as was 
to be expected, said ditto to everything that Smith said. 
Some righteous contributor to " The Globe " wrote of Zola's 
books that they were characterised by " dangerous lubricity," 
that they " sapped the foundations of manhood and woman- 
hood, not only destroyed innocence, but corroded the moral 
nature." "The Birmingham Daily Mail" declared that 
"Zola simply wallowed in Immorality." "The Whitehall 
Review " openly clamoured for the prosecution of his pub- 
lisher. "The Weekly Dispatch" impudently inquired, "If 
Mr. Vizetelly gives us Zola, why does he pick <La Terre 1 ? 
And if Daudet, why pick ' Sapho ' ? " thus ignoring the fact 
that the firm published virtually all of the former's stories, 
and several of the latter's, and conveying, for its own pur- 
poses, a false impression to its readers. Indeed, misrepre- 
sentation of the facts was to be found in many directions. 
A few newspapers wrapped themselves in their dignity and 
said nothing ; and a few remained fairly cool and sensible : 


"The Standard; 1 ^The Scottish Leader," "The Scotsman," 
"The Radical Leader/* "The Bradford Observer" "The 
Country Gentleman," " Piccadilly," " The Newcastle Chron- 
icle/' and * The Western Daily Press." There may have been 
a few others, for the writer does not claim that his collec- 
tion of press cuttings is absolutely complete ; but after ex- 
amining some hundreds of extracts he finds little that is not 
mendacious or steeped in religious bigotry, puritanical pru- 
dery, or gross ignorance. And at all events it is certain that 
an overwhelming majority of British editors and "leader- 
writers " endorsed the views of the Pharisees. 

The campaign was then carried to a decisive stage. A 
firm of solicitors, (toilette & Collette, applied at Bow Street 
police-court for a summons against Henry Vizetelly for 
having published three obscene books, to wit, " Nana,* " The 
Soil* (*I* Terre f> )> and Piping-Hot" (" Pot-BouiUe "), by 
Emila Zola* The summons was granted, and on August 10, 
1888, Vwetelly appeared to answer it The prosecution 
had been entrusted to Mr. Asquith, now best known 
as a politician, and he, in opening his case, was about 
to deal with "Nana," when the magistrate, Mr. (afterwards 
Sir) John Bridge, who evidently had already made up his 
mind respecting the case, suggested that he should take the 
worst of the three books, namely " The Soil," for which, by 
the way, Zola had received the decoration of the Legion of 
Honour three weeks previously ! Counsel assented, referred 
the magistrate to various pages, and then solemnly declared 
that this book and the two others were " the three most im- 
moral books ever published ! " But having thus revealed 
how very limited was his knowledge of literature, he added, 
fairly enough, that it was claimed for "The Soil" that it 


had been published with a high moral object namely, to 
show the degradation of the French peasant and the neces- 
sity of alteration in the laws by which he was governed. 

Vizetelly's solicitor, Mr, Lickfold (of Messrs. Lewis & 
Lewis), argued on his client's behalf that he had a perfect 
right to publish these translations, the French originals of 
which were circulated in Great Britain without let or 
hindrance; and he contrasted them with English works 
which were sold widely and freely, such as Byron's "Don 
Juan," and Shakespeare's * Merry Wives of Windsor." Far 
from the incriminated books being the three most immoral 
ever written, said Mr. Lickfold, there were many within the 
cognisance of all men of any education which were very 
much worse. But the magistrate curtly intimated that it 
was a case for a jury to decide, and he forthwith committed 
the defendant for trial at the Central Criminal Court, ad- 
mitting him, meanwhile, to bail in his own recognisances. 

Vizetelly's committal led to great rejoicing among the 
Pharisees; and to improve the occasion the "National 
Vigilants " summoned a bookseller named Thomson at 
Guildhall (September 7) for selling an English version 
of Boccaccio's "Decameron." Mr. Forrest Fulton subse- 
quently knighted and appointed Common Sergeant of the 
City of London prosecuted and asked for a committal, but 
Mr. Horace Avory, defendant's counsel, replied that the 
" Decameron " had been in circulation for over four hundred 
years, that there were three copies of the work in the Eng- 
lish language in the Guildhall Library and soijae two 
hundred in the British Museum; and he contended that 
this classical work was not indecent in the eyes of the law. 
Mr. Alderman Phillips, who heard the case, quietly re- 


marked that he himself had read the book both in Italian 
and in English, and he refnsed to send the defendant for 
trial, as he did not believe that any jury would return a 

This was a rebuff for the fanatics, who now concentrated 
their energy on the prosecution of Vizetelly. The latter 
had taken his committal in a defiant spirit, promptly issu- 
ing the following notice to his customers: "The trade is 
informed that there are no legal restrictions on the sale 
of 'Nana,' 'Piping Hot,' and 'The Soil/ and that none 
can be imposed until a jury has pronounced adversely 
against these books which the publishers still continue 
to supply." This announcement, which was perhaps ill 
advised though in counsel's opinion well within one's 
legal rights momentarily enraged the " Vigilants," but 
they were about to receive important help. The Govern- 
ment, encouraged by the press, took up the prosecution, thus 
relieviBg the agitators of the cost of their suit. 

Affairs now began to assume a more serious aspect, the 
question was no longer one of fighting a band of fanatics, 
but of contending against the law-officers of the Crown 
who would bring all the weight of their authority to 
bear upon the jury. In these circumstances Vizetelly 
decided to print a series of extracts from the works of 
English classic authors, 1 by way of showing that if Zola's 
novels were suppressed one ought also to suppress some 
of the greatest works in English literature. These extracts, 
which were preceded by quotations from Macaulay on the 
suggested suppression of the works of Congreve, "Wycherley, 

1 "Extracts principally from English Classics," etc,, 4to. London, 1888. 
(Printed for private circulation.) 


etc., and b j Zola's own explanation of the scope and purpose 
of Ms Eougon-Macquart series, covered a very wide field. 
Among the many authors laid under contribution were 
Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger, John 
Ford, Thomas Carew, Sir George Etherege, Dryden, Con- 
greve, Otway, Prior, Defoe, Swift, Sterne, Fielding, Smollett, 
Byron, etc., the series running from the time of Elizabeth 
to the early part of the nineteenth century. At the same 
time Vizetelly drafted an open letter to Sir A, K. Stephen- 
son, the Solicitor to the Treasury, who now conducted the 
prosecution, and copies of the letter and of the extracts 
were forwarded to all the members of the Government 
and the leading London newspapers. The letter ran as 
follows : 

Sm, As the Treasury, after a lapse of four years since the 
first appearance of the translations of M. Zola's novels, has taken 
upon itself the prosecution instituted for the suppression of these 
books, I beg leave to submit to your notice some hundreds of 
Extracts, chiefly from English classics, and to ask you if in the 
event of M. Zola's novels being pronounced "obscene libels,** 
publishers will be allowed to continue issuing In their present 
form the plays of Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger, 
and other old dramatists, and the works of Defoe, Dryden, Swift, 
Prior, Sterne, Fielding, Smollett, and a score of other writers 
all containing passages far more objectionable than any that can 
be picked out from the Zola translations published by me. 

I admit that the majority of the works above referred to were 
written many years ago, still they are largely reprinted at the 
present day at times in Editions de litze at a guinea per volume, 
and at others in People's Editions, priced as low as sixpence, 
so that while at the period they were written their circulation 
was comparatively small, of late years it has increased almost a 


So long *a the present prosecution was in the hands of the 
fiotict who initiated "The Maiden Tribute " of "The Pall Mall 
Gaiette, 1 * and whose mouthpieces in both Houses of Parliament 
haw gdled th Legislature with cock and bull sensational stories 
of there being ten houses in a single London street where young 
girls sr accommodated with private rooms and supplied with 
indaeent books for perusal, ... so long m the prosecution re- 
mained in those hands, I waa content to leave the decision to the 
sound common-sense of an English jury. Now, however, that the 
Government has thought proper to throw its weight into the scale, 
with the view of suppressing a class of books which the law 
has never previously interfered with otherwise the works I 
have quoted from could only be issued in secret and circulated by 
stealth circumstances are changed, and I ask for my own and 
other publishers 1 guidance whether, if Zola's novels are to be inter- 
dicted, f Tom Jones " and " Roderick Random, n " Moll Flanders * 
and "The Country Wife,* "The Maid's Tragedy " and "The 
Bekpsi/* in all of which the grossest passages are to be met 
wiik wll 0U11 be allowed to emulate without risk of legal pro- 

IE the Extracts now submitted to your notice, and which you 
must be well aware could be multiplied almost a hundred-fold, I 
have made no selections from cheap translations of the classics 
with their manifold obscenities * . * nor from popular versions of 
foreign authors, whose indecency surpasses anything contained in 
the English versions of " Nana" and "The Soil," and who, unlike 
M. Zola, exhibit no moral tendency whatever in their writings. 
. . . The Temperance cause never before found so potential an 
advocate as M. Zola proved himself to be in " L' Assommoir/ 1 
A great writer who has exercised the wide influence on contempo- 
rary literature that M. Zola has done, whose works have been 
rendered into all the principal European languages, and who com- 
mands a larger audience than any previous author has ever before 
secured, is not to be extinguished by having recourse to the old 
form of legal condemnation, and especially at the bidding of a 


fanatical party, the disastrous elects of whose agitation on the 
health of our soldiers is recognised and lamented by all military! 
and by most sensible, men. 

Is life as it really exists with the Yice and degradation current 
among the lower classes, and the greed, the selfishness, and the sen* 
suality prevalent in the classes above to be in future ignored by 
the novelist who, in the case of M. Zola, really holds the historian's 
pen! Is adual life to be no longer described in fiction, simply 
because the withdrawal of the veil that shrouds it displays a state 
of things unadapted to the contemplation not of grown-up men 
and women, but of " the young person of fifteen/* who has the 
works of all Mr. Mudie's novelists to feast upon f This certainly 
was not the law in the days of Defoe, Swift, and Fielding, and it 
needed a canting age, that can gloat over the filthiest Divorce 
cases, while pretending to be greatly shocked at M. Zola's blunt- 
ness j but above all, it required a weak-kneed Government, with 
one who was once a literary man himself at its head, [Lord 
Salisbury] to strain the law in a way that an educated alder- 
man refused to do the other day in reference to Boccaccio's 
" Decameron." 

Time, we are told, brings round its revenges, and the books 
burnt by the common hangman in one age come to b honoured 
in the next. England may render itself ridiculous in the eyes of 
Europe by visiting the works of M. Zola with the same kind 
of condemnation which the civilised world has accorded to the 
writings of the degraded Marquis de Sade; still it requires no 
particular foresight to predict that a couple of generations hence, 
when the tribe of prejudiced scribes who, ignorant for the most 
part of their own country's literature, now join in the hue and cry 
against M. Zola are relegated to their proper obscurity, the 
works of the author of the Rougon-Macquart Family will take 
rank as classics among the productions of the great writers of the 

I am, Sir, your obedient servant, 



The letter was dated September 18, 1888, on which very 
day the sessions of the Central Criminal Court began, but 
the Crown applied for a postponement of the trial, and as 
Yketelly's counsel, who had been instructed to oppose any 
postponement, failed to attend, and Vizetelly himself was 
refused admittance by an officious policeman, the case was at 
once put off until October. This was very prejudicial 
to Vizetelly's business, particularly as the attacks of certain 
prints did not cease. Looking back, it greatly astonishes 
the writer that no application was ever made to commit the 
publishers of several London and provincial newspapers for 
circulating comments on a case which was sub judice, 
comments well calculated to prevent the defendant from 
obtaining a fair trial But that idea does not seem to have 
occurred either to Vizetelly or to anybody about him. He 
at fizst had felt fairly confident respecting the issue of the 
cue, and, as an old journalist* had entertained nothing 
but contempt for the terriers of the profession who barked 
at his heels. But his confidence had been shaken by the 
intervention of the Government and was finally undermined 
by well-meaning friends who, owing to the postponement of 
the proceedings, had many an opporttinity to tender counsel. 
Their motives were most honourable and praiseworthy, no 
doubt But the effects of their solicitude were disastrous. 
" In the multitude of counsellors there is wisdom," it has 
been said, but in Vizetelly 1 s case there came chaos. While 
some urged him to fight, others begged that he would do no 
such thing. There was an incessant chassS-croise of advice ; 
and Vizetelly, now resolving on one course, and now on 
another, was at last at a loss what to do. Had he been 
a younger man the case would have been very different, for 


in his prime he had evinced much energy of disposition, 
and in difficult moments had relied on his own sound com- 
mon-sense. But he was now sixty-eight years old, and 
though he was still of most industrious habits, the strenu- 
ous life he had led had left its mark upon him. Moreover, 
a complaint from which he suffered had taken a very 
serious turn, and frequent physical suffering was not con- 
ducive to perspicuity and energy of mind. Again, there 
was the position of his business to be considered. In conse- 
quence of the prosecution and the misrepresentations of the 
newspapers, the trade became afraid to handle any books he 
published, and thus his sales rapidly decreased. Besides, 
he found it difficult to obtain efficient counsel for his trial. 
The Parnell Commission was then sitting, and most of the 
great men of the bar were retained in it. Mr. (now Sir 
Robert) Finlay, Q. C., who was applied to, could not take 
the brief, having in hand already a large number, which 
the barristers engaged before the commission had been 
obliged to decline. Other men were similarly circumstanced, 
and there was one who honestly admitted that he did not 
like the case, and would therefore prove a very poor advo- 
cate. Eventually Mr. Francis B. Williams, Q. C., [Recorder 
of Cardiff, was retained, with Mr. A. R Cluer, now a London 
police magistrate, as his junior. 

Beset as he was by various friends, who held that in the 
state of public opinion he was not likely to secure an 
acquittal, Vizetelly at last allowed some inquiries to be 
made as to what would happen if he pleaded guilty and 
withdrew the three incriminated Zola translations, such as 
they were then, from circulation. A letter bearing on this 
question, says : " If the rest of Zola's works that are open 


to objection are withdrawn, the Solicitor-general will be 
content that the defendant be not sentenced to imprison- 
ment* He thinks that tie taxed costs of the prosecution 
should be paid, and will leave the amount of fine (if any) 
to the judge, not pressing for a heavy one if the defendant 
is a man of small means. 1 * This communication gave a new 
aspect to the case. The question was no longer one of three 
of Zola's works ; all of them might have to be withdrawn. 
Private testimony respecting the narrow puritanism animat- 
ing the authorities at that moment indicated that they 
would show no fairness in considering the matter of other 
books by Zola, at least in the form of translations ; for it is 
a fact that while Vizetelly's expurgated English versions 
were being prosecuted, the French volumes still entered the 
country and were freely sold there and circulated by libra- 
ries ! Thw aE who knew French were privileged to read 
Zola wrlffii&m, whereas theme who did not know that lan- 
guage were not allowed to peruse expurgated renderings of 
Ms books. Under the circumstances set forth above, Vize- 
telly finally resolved to contest the case ; but, unfortunately, 
the inquiries instituted on his behalf had made his hesita- 
tion known to the prosecution and inclined it therefore to 
vigorous courses. 

The trial took place on October 31, 1888, at the Old Bai- 
ley, before the Recorder, Sir Thomas Chambers, whose literary 
bent may be indicated in a few words : his favourite poet was 
Hannah More. The jury appeared to be of the usual petty- 
trading class. The prosecution was conducted by the 
Solicitor-general, then Sir Edward Clarke, who had already 
made a considerable reputation by certain cross-examinations, 
and who at a subsequent period defended the unhappy 


Oscar Wilde, when the latter was convicted of unnatural 
offences* Sir Edward opened the proceedings at no great 
length. He first pointed out that, in the case of "The 
Queen t?. Hicklm/* Lord Chief Justice Cockburn had ruled 
that the object for which a publication might be issued had 
nothing to do with the question of its obscenity, the test of 
which was whether the matter so published had a tendency 
to deprave and corrupt those into whose hands the publica- 
tion might fall He also mentioned that it had been ruled 
in the Hicklin case that no excuse was supplied by the 
circumstance that other literature especially that of two 
or three centuries previously might contain passages 
conflicting with one's judgment as to what was fit for cir- 
culation. Then he passed to " The Soil,** asserting that it 
was full of bestial obscenity, without a spark of literary 
genius or the expression of an elevated thought. That, of 
course, was his opinion of the book ; and several years later 
he amused a great many people by giving his opinions on 
literature at large, thereby arousing the ire of a distinguished 
writer, Mr. Edmund Gosse, who unfortunately made the 
mistake of telling Sir Edward Clarke that he was a lawyer 
and not a litUrateur even as Mr. Chamberlain in his fis- 
cal campaign subsequently reproached Mr. Asquith for dis- 
cussing business when he was not a business man. But 
whatever might be Sir Edward Clarke's calling, he had a 
right to hold opinions on literature and to express them. 
Even a tinker may have literary views and may make them 
known, though it does not follow that they will be adopted 
by the community generally. 

Having concluded his address, the Solicitor-general pro- 
ceeded to read some passages from " The Soil," and he had 


scarcely begun when a faint stir among the public brought a 
loud cry of " Silence ! " from the ushers. Ernest Vizetelly, 
who was seated at the solicitors' table, then turned and 
perceived several French newspaper correspondents and 
others striving to preserve their gravity, which had been 
disturbed by the curious manner in which Sir Edward 
Clarke pronounced the French names confronting him in 
the pages of " The Soil" For a time one might have im- 
agined he was reading a novel of the kail-yard, for he 
persistently pronounced * f Jean" as if it were a Scottish 
name. For instance: 

" There was a lass, and she was fair, 
At kirk and market to be seen; 
"When a' the Imirest maids were met, 
The Mrest maid was boxmie Jean." 1 

The effect was the more curious as in Zola's book Jean, of 
course, is a man, whereas from Sir Edward Clarke's pronun- 
ciation it might have been inferred that he was a woman ! 
However, the slaughter of French names did not continue 
long. The jurymen expressed their views clearly enough by 
interrupting a passage describing how the girl Frangoise 
Mouche brings the cow, La Coliche, to the bull at the farm 
of La Borderie. The mere idea that such a thing could 
happen evidently amazed and disgusted them; but their 
surprise would probably have been less great if, instead of 
being Londoners, they had been yokels from the country, 
for, as various correspondents informed the writer subsequent 
to the trial, instances of the same kind could have been 
easily adduced from different parts of the United Kingdom, 
notably Wales. 

* "The Poetical Works of Robert Burns," Aldine Edition, YoL II, p. 225 


One of the Pecksniffian arguments at that time was that 
Zola wrote for his own countrymen, and that even if he were 
justified in addressing them as he did, there was no excuse 
for placing translations of his works in the hands of English 
people, to whom those works did not apply. This was ridic- 
ulous, English society being quite as deeply, though by 
reason of the national hypocrisy, not so openly corrupt as 
French society. As for the case of Franoise Mouche and 
the cow, La Coliche, one might have found, as already stated, 
numerous instances of young girls being similarly employed 
in Great Britain. But of course such matters were not to be 
spoken of or written about ! They must be cloaked over, 
covered up, so that they might continue unhindered ! Be- 
sides, it was abominable to assert such things. The rural 
districts of England were moral paradises, safe in the guar- 
dianship of parson and squire ! Only London was immoral, 
poor, wicked London, which bears the weight of many a sin 
which is not its own. It would be interesting, indeed, to know 
how far those moral paradises, the rural districts, contribute 
to the illegitimate births with which London is at times 
reproached. Is there even a single day in the year when 
London does not witness the arrival in its midst of some 
unfortunate country girls who have left their homes to hide 
their shame among the multitude of its inhabitants ? 

But one must return to the trial. When Sir Edward 
Clarke had read a few of his extracts the demeanour of the 
jury and their repeated interruptions plainly indicated what 
their verdict would be. Even then, no doubt, the better 
course would have been to let the trial proceed, in order 
that counsel might have his opportunity of presenting the 
defence, if not for the enlightenment of the jury, at least 


for that of the public at large. Mere passages, there 
were twenty-five, some, no doubt, rather long ones, incrimi- 
nated in a volume of hundreds of pages proved nothing. 
One might find scores and scores of passages in the Bible 
which if taken without the context and the general know- 
ledge one has of the book might make it appear undesirable. 
In the case of "The Soil," the facts should have been 
expounded, whether they influenced the jury or not. 
But Vizetelly's counsel, Mr. Williams, was evidently quite 
disheartened; he deemed it useless to prolong the case; 
and so after the briefest of consultations the plea of " not 
guilty" was withdrawn for one of "guilty." It was a 
complete collapse, 

Mr. Williams, however, began to address the Eecorder 
in mitigation of punishment, and in doing so referred to 
Zola as " a great French writer." " Oh, no, a voluminous 
Trench writer, if you like," said Sir Edward Clarke. " A 
popular French writer," the Recorder suggested. "A writer 
who certainly stands high among the literary men of 
France," Mr. Williams retorted; whereupon Sir Edward 
Clarke exclaimed in a pompous way, " Do not malign the 
literature of France ! " Whether the Solicitor-general was 
qualified to express any opinion of weight on the literature 
of France might well have been doubted by all who had 
heard him pronounce the name " Jean." But Mr. Williams 
got in a last word. Confirming his description of Zola, 
he said: "It is apparent to all who have studied the 
literature of France at the present day." l And he might 
have added that Zola had but lately been made a knight 

1 " The Queen v, Henry Vizetelly." Transcript from the shorthand notes 
of Messrs. Barnett and Buckler, of Eolls Chambers, Chancery Lane 


of the Legion of Honour for the very book, for having issued 
an expurgated edition of which Vizetelly was about to 
be punished. On that subject Sir Edward Clarke stated 
that he did not ask for imprisonment, and however much 
one may differ from him, particularly in literary matters, 
it is essential one should recognise that, having won the 
day, he showed some forbearance. Vizetelly had natu- 
rally pleaded guilty, not only to the indictment respecting 
"The Soil," but to those respecting "Nana" and "Piping 
Hot," which were not gone into. The Kecorder admonished 
him and then sentenced him to pay a fine of a hundred 
pounds and to enter into his recognisances in two hundred 
pounds to be of good behaviour for twelve months. 1 

But a very important matter has still to be mentioned. 
A certain undertaking was given in court respecting the 
Zola translations published by Vizetelly. The present 
writer, his brothers, and many friends who were present, 
as well as the defendant himself, distinctly understood that 
undertaking to be that the three incriminated volumes and 
all other works by Zola which were as objectionable as 
those three should be withdrawn from circulation; but 
it was not said that none of Zola's books should ever 
be sold. On that point it is advisable to quote the short- 
hand writers' transcript, which shows how the Solicitor- 
general interpreted the undertaking : " Sir Edward, Clarke ; 
Of course I am very glad that a course has been taken 
which will not only stop from circulation the three books 
contained in these indictments, but which carries with 

1 Sir Thos, Chambers remarked that the books were not of a seductive 
character, but " repulsive and revolting," and of course that was what Zola, in 
a sense, had tried to make them. 


it an undertaking by Mr, Vizetelly that he will be no 
party to the circulation of any other of the works which 
M. Zola has produced, any others I should like to say 
which are at least as objectionable as those which are 
indicted before your Lordship to-day ." 

According to the writer's recollection, and that of his 
relatives and friends, Mr. Williams in giving the under- 
taking applied to the incriminated books the expression, 
*< in their present form " ; but these words do not appear in 
the shorthand notes which the writer holds. Nevertheless 
the language of Sir Edward Clarke suggests that some 
similar words had been used. It followed that Vizetelly, 
in all good faith, believed that he was entitled to sell 
Zola's books if he rendered them unobjectionable by further 
expurgation. But when other proceedings ensued it was 
even suggested that he was not entitled to sell them under 
any cirenmstances ; and he was actually admonished for 
having inserted in his catalogue the words "Undergoing 
revision 1 * after the titles of "La Terre" and "Nana" 
This plainly showed that the real secret desire of the 
authorities and the " Vigilants " was to suppress translations 
of Zola altogether. They cared not a jot what Vizetelly 
might attempt in order to satisfy their narrow puritanism, 
they were determined to regard all expurgation as inade- 
quate, to pursue and persecute Vizetelly till he abandoned 
that author altogether. And to effect this they were ready 
to strain the law as it had never, perhaps, been strained 

Meantime Zola, who naturally heard of Vizetelly's trial, 
attached, personally, little importance to it. He held that 
the English were making themselves ridiculous by setting 


up a puritanical standard of morality when their own 
literature contained many examples of outspokenness going 
far beyond anything that he had ventured upon. Apart 
from the writers of the past, he had some acquaintance 
with modern English novels such as had been translated 
into French, there being various series of that kind; 1 
and he took the view that many of them, with the glamour 
they cast over vice and even their artful reticence, were 
certainly calculated to demoralise people, whereas his own 
rough frankness could only give the reader a shock, as in- 
deed it was intended to do. At the same time he was 
not surprised at the outcry, for there had been one in 
France, where the ground was far better prepared for out- 
spokenness than in England, where the cant of the Victorian 
era had ever striven to set restrictions on the novelist's 
art. Thackeray, we know, had chafed under them, and 
had written on his preface to " Pendennis " : " Even the 
gentlemen of our age . , , we cannot show as they are, 
with the notorious foibles and selfishness of their lives and 
their education. Since the author of 'Torn Jones' was 
buried no writer of fiction among us has been permitted 
to depict to Ms utmost power a MAN. We must drape 
him, and give Mm a certain conventional simper, Society 
will not tolerate the Natural 2 in our Art." 

1 On consulting the ** BibliograpMe de la France ** some years ago, for 
particulars concerning English fiction in France, the writer found that in 
1886 French publishers issued translations of fifty-four English novels ; in 
1887, translations of sixty-one ; and in 1888, thirty-nine. The total number 
of English (and American) works of all classes published in French in 1888 
was one hundred and twenty-three, but of these forty -two were merely new 
editions, leaving the number of the translations first issued in that year at 

a This is perhaps the earliest reference to Naturalism in English literature. 


As for the issue of the affair for the Vketellys, of whom 
Zola then knew little, having only had a few business trans- 
actions with them, he did not feel deeply affected, for 
the matter seemed to him to resolve itself into a moderate 
pecuniary loss which, he imagined, the defendant would 
be well able to incur, having made considerable profits on 
the incriminated books. 1 Tor the rest, when in later years 
Ernest Vizetelly showed him various newspaper cuttings 
imputing to him a variety of statements, Zola remarked that 
some he had never made, while as for others his words had 
evidently been misconstrued. 

As it happened, the affair proved far more serious for 
Yizetelly & Co. than Zola had thought possible. The 
firm then had several thousand pounds locked up in illus- 
trated books which were not nearly ready for publication. 
The sales of its existing books had been declining for 
several months, so that its receipts had become small, 
though its expenses remained heavy and it had liabilities 
such as are always incurred in trade. Under these circum- 
stances it was felt that the Zola translations, being a 
valuable property, could not be entirely sacrificed. The 
undertaking given in court was interpreted in the sense 
previously indicated, and, though the books were absolutely 

1 In various instances Vizetelly & Co. had acquired its interest in Zola's 
works from third parties who had bought the rights direct from the author. 
In some cases, under the law of that time, the copyrights had lapsed ; and 
anybody could issue translations of the hooks so circumstanced. This will 
explain the circulation of several of the American versions in England. 
However Vizetelly & Co., as soon as practicable, put things on such a basis 
as to protect all Zola's new books, purchasing the sole British rights from him 
or from his assigns. At the outset Zola received moderate sums; later, after 
Ernest Vizetelly and Messrs. Chatto had taken his interests in hand, the 
payments rose considerably. In America a royalty of fifteen per cent waa 
usually paid, Zola taking two-thirds and E, Yizetelly one-third of it. 


withdrawn for a time, it was decided to put them on the 
market again after they had been adequately expurgated. 

A good deal of this work was entrusted to Ernest 
Vizetelly, but he was hampered by important restrictions. 
He learnt that the books were stereotyped and that his 
alterations must be such as might be effected in the plates, 
for it would be too expensive to reset the books in their 
entirety, though a few pages might be reset here and there. 
Under these conditions, as sentences and paragraphs often 
had to be struck out or considerably abbreviated, it became 
very difficult to fill the gaps which occurred. Ernest Viz- 
etelly at least did the best he could. He spent two months 
on the work and deleted or modified three hundred and 
twenty-five pages of the fifteen volumes handed to Mm. 
Henry Vizetelly was in poor health at the time ; but he 
himself attended to a few volumes, and his son's work was 
sent to him for inspection before it was forwarded to the 
printers. Whether he himself went through it in its 
entirety or not cannot be stated positively ; but at all events 
the work was passed, and some of the Zola volumes were 

Soon afterwards the "National Vigilants," elated by 
their previous easy victory, returned to the warpath. 
Henry Vizetelly was again summoned, this time for selling 
the following books : " The Assommoir," a Germinal," " Fat 
and Thin" ("Le Ventre de Paris"), "The Eush for the 
Spoil " (" La Curfe "), AbW Mouret's Transgression," " How 
Jolly Life is " ("La Joie de Vivre"), "The Fortune of the 
Kougons," and "His Excellency E. Eougon," by Zola; 
" Madame Bovary," by Gustave Flaubert ; " A Love Crime," 
by Paul Bourget ; "A Woman's Life " and " A Ladies' Man " 


( M Bal Ami**), % Guy de Maupassant At the same time 
W* M. Thomson, discharged when summoned for "The 
Decameron/* was prosecuted for selling a translation of 
" The Heptameron," as well as other works ; and other book- 
sellers were likewise proceeded against in connection with 
some of the American versions of Zola's novels. The cases 
were heard by Mr. Vaughan, a testy old magistrate who long 
presided at Bow Street, and who committed Vizetelly for 
trial with respect to the following works: Zola's "Abb^ 
Mouret's Transgression/* "The Rush for the Spoil," "Fat 
and Thin" "His Excellency E. Bougon," "How Jolly Life 
is " ; Bouiget's " Love Crime " and Maupassant's " Ladies' 
Man,* 1 A few objections had been raised in the press 
apropos of the prosecution of ** Madame Bovary," and with 
the gracious approval of the great Stead of the "Maiden 
Tribute, 1 * the summons respecting tibat work was eventually 
adjourned nne die. 1 

"When Vizetelly returned to his office from Bow Street on 
the day of his committal, he took the only course consistent 
with integrity. He assigned everything he possessed for 
the benefit of his creditors, in order that his business might 
be liquidated. It was impossible to carry it on any longer. 
The wreckers had resolved to ruin him, and had succeeded 
to their hearts* desire. Friends came and expressed their 
sympathy among others, Sir Henry Irving, the late Sir 
John Gilbert, and Mr. Birket Foster but there was virtu- 
ally no opportunity for any public protest Not a news- 

1 The same course was taken with, the summonses for " L'Assonamoir," 
"Germinal," and "The Fortune of the Rougons." And that against 
Thomson with regard to "The Heptameron" was withdrawn because the 
prosecution had mislaid its copy of the work. 


paper now dared to print a word on behalf of this old 
servant of the press whom the " Vigilante " had chosen 
for their victim. On the morrow of the first trial the 
"leader" writers had hastened to avail themselves of his 
plea of guilty to pass unanimous condemnation on him. 
The delighted " Vigilante " had promptly printed and circu- 
lated extracts from the "Times," "St. James's Gazette/' 
"Whitehall Review," "Star" "Globe," "Morning Adver- 
tiser," " Saturday Review," " Methodist Times " " Liverpool 
Mercury," and " Western Morning News " ; and those sam- 
ples of English press opinion might have been multiplied 
indefinitely. They showed all parties in agreement: the 
Tories and the Radicals, the Puritans and the Publicans. 
Coote, the secretary to the " Vigilants," had become censor 
wiorum, and all bowed to his authority. Yet some members 
of this so-called " National Vigilance Association " had been 
mixed up in various nefarious matters. There had been, as 
Mr. George Moore subsequently wrote, "the case of an 
unfortunate foreign prince, who was dragged into court 
on a charge of abduction or seduction, or both; when 
the matter came to be sifted it was found that he was 
absolutely and wholly innocent. So conclusive and so 
unimpeachable was the evidence, that Mr. Besley, who 
prosecuted for the Association, had to admit that he had 
nothing to say, and the judge replied, * I should think not, 
indeed. 1 "* 

Again there was a notorious Leamington case in which 
the "Vigilants" prosecuted, and in which, as Mr. Moore 
again pointed out, it was proved that two women clandes- 

1 "The New Censorship of Literature/' by George Moore, "New York 
Herald," London edition, July 28, 1889, 


tinely took an innocent girl from her employment, piled her 
with filthy questions, threatened her, and induced her to 
sign a paper which might have led to a boy of fifteen being 
sent to prison for two years ! * 

And this was the class of person that assumed the prerog- 
ative of Literary Censorship. The press prostrated itself 
before the new Terror, and the Government supported it by 
again taking up the prosecution of Vizetelly. The trustees 
of his estate resolved to fight the case and provided funds 
for that purpose, but while the selection of counsel was in 
abeyance, Mr. Frank Harris, then editor of "The Fort- 
nightly Review/' and one of the few who realised that an 
odious tyranny was being established, generously offered to 
bear all Vizetelly's expenses. Mr. Harris desired, however, 
that the defence should now be entrusted entirely to Mr. 
Cluer, who had acted as Vketelly's junior counsel at the 
first trial, and who had also appeared for him at the recent 
police court proceedings. There were various advantages 
in such a course* Mr. Chiefs knowledge of the French 
language was perfect; he had read Zola's works in the 
original, and he knew with what a lofty purpose Zola 
wrote. The present writer favoured the suggested arrange- 
ment, but he had no power in the matter. Any sugges- 
tions he made were invariably set aside throughout the 
affair, on the ground that he had not been long resident in 
England, that there were many things which he did not 
properly understand, and so forth. There was some truth, 
no doubt, in those objections ; but it often happens that a 

and "Daily Chronicle," January 12, 13, and 16, 1894. In the 
latter journal (January 13) Coote denied that " threats were used to induce the 
girl to confess crimes" ; Mr. Moore retorted (January 16) by giving the report 
of the case. 


person who stands a little apart from a battle has a clearer 
perception of its chances than those who are actually en- 
gaged in it. The writer feared that a fresh conviction was 
virtually inevitable, but he also felt that Mr. Cluer would do 
his best for his client, and that the ship, though it might 
well go down, would then at least do so with colours flying. 
But it was held imperative that a Queen's Counsel must be 
engaged, for it would be ridiculous to pit a stuff-gowns- 
man against the Solicitor-general! And so, after various 
delays and difficulties, as on the former occasion, the late 
Mr. Cock, Q. C., was retained, Mr. Cluer again being secured 
as junior counsel 

Henry Tizetelly and his trustees were still resolved to 
fight the case, after their own fashion; and by way of 
answering any charge of having broken the previous un- 
dertaking it was proposed that Ernest Vizetelly should 
give evidence respecting the recent expurgation of Zola's 
books. His father inquiring if he were prepared to do so, 
he immediately assented. He went further: he agreed to 
take, so far as the Zola volumes were concerned, at least 
the odium of this second affair on himself by assuming 
responsibility for what had been dona It was impossible 
for him to hesitate, no son would hesitate to shield his 
father as far as might be possible, 1 but now that the 
time has come to write of these matters he owes it to 
himself, and particularly to his children, to point out that 
the responsibility which he assumed was not really his. 
The expurgatory work he had accomplished had been lim- 

1 Frank Vizetelly, on whom as one of the managers of the business the 
summons was actually served, had offered to take full liability for the sales, 
"but his father would not allow it, 



Ited "by the conditions imposed on him; within them he 
had done his best; but, even then, he had submitted his 
work for approval, saying: "This is all I can do. If any- 
thing further is required another must do it" He knows, 
by the " proof " slips in his possession, that a few further 
alterations were made in his work, the bulk of which, 
however, was passed, and sent to the printers* He was 
not surprised by that, and would not be surprised by it 
now, for he holds that the alterations he made were suffi- 
cient to satisfy everybody except fanatical Puritans. At 
the same time, in that hour of frenzied cant and unscru- 
pulous injustice the responsibility he assumed was no light 
one, for even though he could not be proceeded against 
at law, the odium attaching to it might be very preju- 
dicial to him. And while he had a wife and children to 
support, he had no interest in his father's business be- 
yond being its paid servant; he knew that it had been 
established for the benefit of his younger brothers ; which 
consideration had largely deterred him from pressing his 
own advice during the affair, for he did not wish to be 
accused of attempting to supplant anybody. If, to-day, he 
has pointed out the actual circumstances it is because he 
does not wish anybody to believe, as many have inferred for 
years, that his father's ruin and imprisonment proceeded 
from any neglect of his. It is true he has long allowed 
that to be thought, it might be assumed from the account 
of his father in the " Dictionary of National Biography," 
but the facts were really such as have been stated here. 

Vizetelly & Co, intending to fight the case, as soon as 
the amount of Mr. Cock's fee had been ascertained it was 
voluntarily increased to a larger one in order to induce 


Mm to do his utmost. An attempt was made to arrange 
a consultation some days before the trial, but as a matter 
of fact Mr. Cock was not seen until about half an hour 
before the case opened at the Central Criminal Court, on 
May 30, 1889. Ernest Vizetelly accompanied his father, 
who was now in very bad health indeed. Mr. Cluer intro- 
duced them to Mr. Cock, and a conversation took place in 
a room adjoining the robing room at the Old Bailey. At 
the first words, Mr. Cock declared there could be no de- 
fence. He did not pause to argue. It was plain he wished 
to dispose of the case as quickly as possible. The defend- 
ant, said he, must throw himself on the mercy of the 
court, that was the only thing to do. Henry Vizetelly, 
who had come to the Old Bailey expecting something very 
different, was overwhelmed by this intimation. The blow 
was a coup de massue for him, and at first he could say 
nothing. His son, likewise very much amazed, and, in 
particular, disgusted with this blustering barrister who 
threw up the sponge at the moment of going into court, 
tried to interject a few words, but was curtly silenced. 
There was nothing, nothing to be done, so Cock, Q. C., re- 
peated. Under the circumstances he might have returned 
the extra fee which had been sent him to induce him to 
make a good fight, but he never did. There was, however, 
one course that he was willing to take when he saw the 
distress of his ailing old client He offered to ascertain 
what would be the result of a plea of guilty." To Vize- 
telly's son that seemed a strange course to pursue. He did 
not like hanky-panky or aught suggestive of it. However, 
Mr. Cock rose he was a fat, unwieldy man, with a startling 
red face and rolled out of the room. Whom did he actu- 


ally see ? The writer Is not certain, and in a case of uncer- 
tainty it is best to stay one's pen. But when Mr. Cock 
returned he said in presence of the defendant, his son, and 
Mr. Cluer, that the Solicitor-general was not leniently in- 
clined and that Vizetelly's recognisances "to be of good 
behaviour " would have to be estreated; while the Recorder, 
Sir Thomas Chambers, held that there must be some im- 
prisonment. Did Henry Vizetelly hear those last words ? 
According to his own account, afterwards, he never did; for 
had he done so, in spite of all Mr. Cock's bluster, he would 
never, he said, have pleaded guilty. But the poor man may 
well have misunderstood his counsel. He was in a condi- 
tion little short of actual physical collapse* In a dreamy 
way, as it were, he gave, or seemed to give, a feeble assent 
to everything. Had there been time, his son would have 
made an effort to reopen the question, for it occurred to 
him that* even then, one might perhaps have dispensed 
with Mr. Cock's services and have induced Mr. Cluer to 
undertake the defence unaided. But there was no oppor- 
tunity for further deliberation ; the court was almost wait- 
ing, and one went downstairs to meet the inevitable. 

The proceedings were brief* Vizetelly took his stand 
at the foot of the solicitors' table, his son who sat there, 
and wh.0 at every moment feared to see him fall, holding 
his hand the while. For an instant, when challenged, he 
hesitated, then ejaculated the word "guilty," much as if 
he were expectorating. 

Thus the case was never argued on its merits. Of course 
the Solicitor-general held that the previous undertaking had 
been violated, and asked that the defendant's recognisances 
in two hundred pounds should be estreated. Then Mr. Cock 


spoke of the explication of the books, which in his opinion 
a had not gone suffieently far/* and added that the defendant 
was in his seventieth year and in very delicate health. On 
that point Ernest Vizetelly testified on oath that his father 
had suffered for some years from a complaint which had lately 
assumed a very serious character and necessitated the con- 
stant employment of surgical instruments. He then ima- 
gined his examination to be over, and was about to leave 
the witness-box when Sir Ed ward Clarke inquired if he were 
a member of the firm of Vketelly & Co. The witness an- 
swered in the negative, he was a journalist by profession, 
and if previously employed by the firm he had then ceased 
to be so. But the Solicitor-general pressed him for the pur- 
pose, so it seemed, of extracting some undertaking with 
respect to the future sale of Zola's works or the destruc- 
tion of the existing stock. This the witness had no power 
to give, and he was determined to say nothing that might 
lead to it being given by others. As the pertinacity of 
counsel continued, the witness, feeling somewhat ruffled, 
could not refrain from retorting : " You have made the de- 
fendant a pauper ! What more do you want ? ** " Now, now, 1 * 
Sir Edward Clarke shouted back, " we want none of that 1 n 
" Well, I have nothing else to say," the witness added. * I do 
not belong to the firm of Yizetelly & Co., and I now know 
nothing about it." Thereupon the Solicitor-general, some- 
what discomfited, had to let him go. 

The Eecorder then passed sentence. It was useless, he 
said, to fine the defendant, as he had no means to pay a fine. 
But Ms recognisances must be estreated, and he must go to 
prison, as a first-class misdemeanant, for three months. 
Vizetelly was at once led below; and his son applied, 


through counsel, for leave to speak with him before he was 
removed to jail The Recorder granted permission, but the 
son was not allowed to follow his father* He and Mr. Lick- 
fold (Vizetelly's solicitor) were told to apply at the small 
barred gate of Newgate, immediately adjoining the Old Bailey. 
They went thither and were admitted. A warder, or at- 
tendant, was told of the permission the judge had given, 
and went to make inquiries. Mr. Lickfold retired, and the 
writer remained waiting. Presently the attendant returned 
and said to him; "The Governor's answer is that you can- 
not see the prisoner. The judge has no power to give leave 
to see any prisoner when once he has left the court." It 
was useless to expostulate. Ernest Vizetelly could only with- 
draw, in considerable distress, for he knew that his father 
in the state of his health would require prompt attention 
and relief; and he had been anxious to do what he could in 
that and other matters. 1 

However, he met his brothers, and various arrangements 
were made to provide for their father's comfort. As the 
case was to have been fought, there had been no anticipation 
that it would end that same day, and nothing was actually 
ready. At last, Holloway being the jail where first-class 
misdemeanants are usually lodged, application was made 
there ; but the officials knew nothing whatever of Vizetelly, 
he had not been sent to them. After some discussion 

* At the risk of offending some readers by plain speaking the writer feels 
he may mention that his father was suffering from a stricture. All medical 
men will know the torture that ensues when the sufferer is placed under such 
conditions that he cannot obtain relief. The trial having suddenly collapsed, 
no medical man was in attendance to give evidence. Had medical evidence 
"been given it is possible that Sir T. Chambers might have hesitated to pass a 
sentence of imprisonment. 


Ernest and his brother Frank Vizetelly, proceeded to 
Pentonville, where they were received very courteously by 
the deputy governor, who said to them ; " Yes, your father 
is here. Why he was sent I do not know; we have no 
accommodation for first-class misdemeanants. None has 
ever been sent here before* Your father is in a shocking 
state, he had been suffering for hours when he arrived here ; 
I have placed him temporarily in our infirmary. I tele- 
graphed to the Prison Commissioners but have had no 
answer. You should go to them at once at Whitehall, and 
ask them to remove him to Holloway/' 

This was done. The facts were set out in writing and 
sent in to some of the Commissioners, who, after an inter- 
val of an hour or so, received Frank Vizetelly, and airily 
told him that there was no mistake at all, that his father 
had been sent to Holloway and would be found there ! The 
fact is that, while the sons were waiting, telegraphic instruc- 
tions had been sent to Pentonville for Vizetelly's removal. 
That could not be effected in an instant on account of his 
serious condition, but when he was lodged in the infirmary 
at Holloway the Commissioners felt they were safe from 
any charge of neglect Ernest Vizetelly, however, was not 
disposed to let the matter drop, and having drafted a ques- 
tion for the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) he wrote to 
Mr. Labouchere, M. P., to inquire if he would ask it in the 
House of Commons* He received the following character- 
istic reply : 

Dear Sir, I do not think that the clerks at the table would 
accept the question as written, for it enters too fully into details. 
However, be this as it may, I should not be the proper person to 
ask it, for I have had many actions for libels, and it would be 


thought that I had an eye to my future accommodation. As a 

matter of tactics, I should advise that no question be asked, for 
the only parson who can reduce the sentence is the Home Secre- 
tary. I do not know if he will, bnt lie certainly will not if his 

back be put up. Yours faithfully, 


24 G rosreaor Gardens, 8. W, 

Jane L [1889]. 

Mr. Labouehere's advice was certainly good, and it was 
followed. That is why the facts have never been disclosed 
till now. 

Little more need be added here, Henry Vizetelly left a 
long account of Ms prison experiences which the writer 
may some day print He was fairly well treated at Hollo- 
way, 1 bnt he writes that after he had left the infirmary 
(of which he was long an inmate, as the result of the 
neglect in which he was left immediately after his trial) 
he had great difficulty in obtaining water of the requisite 
heat for the treatment of his complaint, his room (previously 
occupied by Edmund Tates) being so far from the kitchens 
that, as a rule, the water was almost cold by the time it 
reached him. His health naturally deteriorated in confine- 
ment, but he did his best to look at things cheerfully, and 
found occupation in planning various literary enterprises. 
Several friends, notably Edmund Yates, showed great kind- 
ness at this time. Mr, George Moore did his best to ven- 
tilate the whole question of the prosecution and Robert 
Buchanan wrote an able pamphlet under the grim title of 
" On Descending into HelL" Ernest VLsetelly was then 

1 He had 1 tlie usual privileges of a first-class misdemeanant. His food was 
sent him from outside, lie had some "books and periodicals at Ms disposal, 
and a few articles of furniture were sent from Ms home. 


chiefly occupied in preparing and circulating a memorial to 
the Home Secretary, praying for his father's release on vari- 
ous grounds. Though two or three of the newspapers were 
already beginning to think that matters had been car- 
ried too far, few journalists, unless friends, were asked for 
their signatures ; but Vizetelly's son had the satisfaction of 
securing the support of several notable authors with whom 
he had never previously held communication. Their letters 
of sympathy touched him deeply, and showed him that 
though the newspaper press might be so largely under the 
thumb of the " National Vigilants," there were men of letters 
of high standing who retained all their independence of 
thought. A few, it is true, made certain reserves with re- 
spect to Zola's works, but all felt that Henry Vketelly 
ought not to have been treated so harshly. The writer, un- 
fortunately, has preserved no complete list of those who 
signed the petition (from one hundred to one hundred and 
fifty in number), and he must apologise for the many omis- 
sions in the one that follows. It will be noticed that it 
contains the names of half a dozen lady writers, as well as 
those of some prominent artists, who remembered Vizetelly's 
work as a wood-engraver, and all he had done for the 
pictorial press : 

" Sir Algernon Borthwick (now Lord Glenesk), M. P., Sir E. 
W. Watkin, M. P., T. P. O'Connor, M. P., Samuel Storey, M. P., 
Charles Bradlaugh, M. P., Dr. C. Cameron, M. P., The Earl of 
Desart, Sir J. E. Millais, R. A., Sir John Gilbert, R. A., W. P. 
Frith, R. A., Birket Foster, Linley Sambourne, Harry Furniss, 
George du Maurier, Prof. Henry Morley, Prof. Geddes, J. Arthur 
Thomson, Edmund Gosse, Dr. R. Garnett, Dr. F. J. Fumivall, 
Oscar Browning, John Addington Symonds, Leslie Stephen, Dr. 


R. Maitland Coffin, Norman Maceoll, James S. Cotton, St. Loe 
Strachey, HOEU Roden Noel, Havelock Ellis, Robert Buchanan, 
Walter Besant, Hon. Lewis Wingfield, Thomas Hardy, George 
Moore, W. Clark Russell, H. Rider Haggard, Hall Caine, * Ouida/ 
Mrs. Frances Hodgson Burnett, Mrs. E. Lynn Linton, Mrs. 
Mona Caird, 'John Strange Winter,' Olive Schreiner, Mabel 
Collins, Harriett Jay, G. A. Sala, Edmund Yates, Frank Harris, 
Archibald Forbes, H. W. Lucy, H, D, Traill, A. W. Pinero, 
William Archer, Augustus Harris, Sir Henry Irving, Henry Arthur 
Jones, Fitzgerald Molloy, Ernest Rhys, S. W. Orson, Hon. F, C, 
Lawley, H. Sutherland Edwards, J. C. Parkinson, D. L., Arthur 
Symons, Alex. C. Ewald, W. R. S, Ralston, Max O'Rell, Savile 
Clarke, Brinsley Nicholson, Q. Laurence Gomme, Frank A, Mar- 
shall, Grant Allen, Frederick and James Greenwood, G. B. Le 
Fanu, F. C. Philips, William Sharp, C. H. Williamson, William 
Senior, H. T. Wharton, Julius Mayhew, W. H. Dircks, Frank 
T, MarxiflOs, W, Faux, of W. H. Smith <fc Sons." 

Various persons in official positions, whom etiquette pre- 
vented from signing the memorial for instance Lord Lyi> 
ton (" Owen Meredith"), then British Ambassador in Paris, 
conveyed privately to Ernest Vizetelly their hope that it 
might prove successful, but the only response of the Home 
Secretary was that he could not advise her Majesty to inter- 
fere in the case. Thus Yizetelly completed his " time " at 
Holloway, being released at the end of August, 1889. He 
returned to his home at Putney, and afterwards removed 
with his daughter and his son Arthur to Heatherlands, near 
Tilford, Surrey, where he spent, in suffering, the few years 
that were left him. They happily sufficed for him to see in 
England a considerable revulsion of feeling with respect to 
femile Zola of whom he had prophesied, in his letter to 
Sir A. K. Stephenson, that time would bring round its re- 


venges. It will be necessary to allude to tim hereafter in 
connection with Zola's first stay in London, but here one 
need only add that he died on January 1, 1894, after a final 
distressing illness. And the little graveyard of the village 
of Churt became the last resting-place of the man who was 
persecuted by the Pecksniffs of Great Britain, and whom the 
** Dictionary of National Biography " describes as the pioneer 
of the world's pictorial press. 



** Le R&Te M How Zola rid himself of Ms obesity ** Germinal " as a play 

" La BSte Hnniaine '* Zola longs to stagger the world He becomes 
a candidate for the Academy Why he failed to secure election His 
novels "L f Argent" and "La Debacle" Ernest Vketelly's position 
He resolves to revive Zola in England Translation of ** La D&b&cle " 
Its reception in England English opinion and Zola French attacks on 
him He visits Genoa He writes ** Le Docteur Pascal " Conclusion of 
the Rongon-Macquart series A few figures respecting it Zola is made 
an Officer of the Legion of Honour A reception in the Bois de Boulogne 

An address to the Paris students Zola and the Socie'te* des Gens de 
Lettre* He is invited to London by the Institute of Journalists He 
hesitates to accept the invitation Correspondence with Yizetelly His 
reception in London His paper on ** Anonymity in Journalism " At 
the Crystal Palace, the Imperial Institute, and the Guildhall - The 
Authors' Club dinner Visits to Westminster Abbey, the National Gal- 
lery, and the British Musenm Some general impressions of London 
The English visit and the French Academy. 

IN 1888, while Zola was being attacked so virulently in 
England he produced Ms story "Le Kve," which some 
people regarded as indicating not only a new departure on 
his part but an endeavour to conciliate his enemies. In the 
first place, however, with regard to literary style, " Le Re've " 
was merely a return to the idyllic manner of " Les Contes & 
Mnon," and " La Faute de l'Abb Mouret " ; and secondly 
it has been shown I that the idea of this work occurred to 
the novelist even before he had finished "La Terre," and that 
he started on it immediately his book on the peasantry 
was completed. It seems certain, therefore, that " Le Bve " 
i Sherard, 7. c., p. 228. 


was not the forced outcome of any outcry, as many have 
supposed, as a matter of fact Zola never yielded to any 
outcries, but came from him spontaneously, as part of 
his general scheme. Beginning the book in August, 1887, 
he finished it in August the following year, when it ran 
serially (from April till October) in a publication called " La 
Eevue Illustrde." 

About the time when Yizetelly's difficulties with his 
English translations were just beginning, the British rights 
in "Le Rve" were purchased by others, who issued a 
version of the story in a few newspapers under their 
control, and subsequently offered the book-rights at a 
somewhat high figure to Vizetelly. He the proceedings 
against him having now commenced declined them, with- 
out troubling even to look at the book ; and this was very 
unfortunate, for whatever may have been Zola's purpose in 
writing " Le Kve," it was a work to make even Pecksniffs 
reflect that this much-abused French author might not 
really be so pornographically inclined as they imagined. 
In any case, if the translation of "Le KSve," instead of 
running merely through sundry provincial newspapers, had 
appeared in volume form in London during the agitation 
raised by the "Yigilants," it might well have proved a 
useful auxiliary to the defence. 

If it were a mistake to regard * Le Eve " as the outcome 
of any transformation of Zola's literary views, there occurred 
about this time a change in his personal appearance of the 
reality of which there could be no doubt. One evening, in 
the winter of 1887-1888, when he was at the Th^tre Libre, 1 

1 His play " Madeleine " (originally called " La Madeleine ") which, he 
had vainly offered to the Gymnase and Vaudeville theatres in 1866, and 


he found, while walking down a passage, that his corpulence, 
which after steadily increasing for several years had now 
become extreme, made it difficult for him to get past Eaf- 
faelli, the artist, who happened to be standing there. " It 's 
a horrid nuisance to have such a corporation," said Zola, 
apologising to Kaffaelli, whom he had involuntarily squeezed. 
** But it 's easily got rid of," the other answered. " If you 
wish to reduce your figure, you will merely have to cease 
drinking while you eat." And forthwith he gave some par- 
ticulars concerning a form of treatment, 1 which he himself 
had followed, for ridding oneself of obesity. On the follow- 
ing morning Zola told his wife of it, but she laughed at him, 
declaring there was no sense in such a story. Besides, she 
said, he would never be able to abstain from drinking while he 
ate. Zola contended the contrary, and at last both husband 
nd wife became impatient, and without exactly quarrelling, 
had, u the saying goes, "a few words together." But at 
last the morning rol and coffee, to which the first breakfast 
is usually limited in Paris, was served, and Zola thereupon 
took up his roll and began to eat. As for the coffee, in 
spite of all his wife's expostulations, he would not touch it ; 
and for three months he persevered with this new treatment, 
drinking very sparingly and never at meals. Moreover, after 
a week or two he eschewed bread altogether. One Sunday 
in March (1888) when he arrived at M. Charpentier's house 
to dine there, Goncourt, who was present, could scarcely 
recognise him. He had lost over thirty pounds in weight, 

which he had afterwards turned into a novel, "Madeleine Ferat" (see ante t 
pp. 99 and 107) was produced with indifferent success at the Theatre Libre 
in 1889 first performance, May 2. 

1 The writer believes it is called the Schveninger cure. 


and Ms face, so round and flabby of recent years, once more 
recalled the portrait which Manet had painted of him in, his 
early manhood. After marvelling at this great change Gon- 
court lost sight of Zola for another eight months or so, and 
when he met him again in November he did not recognise 
him at all Zola no longer resembled even the Manet por- 
trait ; he was quite emaciated, his cheekbones projected, and 
under his hair, which he now wore rather long and brushed 
back, his forehead showed forth like a lofty tower. The 
same energy and determination which he brought to bear in 
his literary undertakings had enabled him to effect this great 
change. He was then about eight and forty, and although, 
in later years, he broadened and put on additional fiesh, he 
never again became obese. After a time he allowed himself 
a draught of water at his meals, but for the remainder of his 
life he ate very little bread. 

It was in 1888 (April 21) that " Germinal," the play based 
on his novel, was at last produced at the Th^tre du Ch,telet 
in Paris. There was then a lull in the political unrest of 
France ; nevertheless the Censorship had insisted on multi- 
tudinous alterations in the piece, for fear lest "revolutionary 
passions " should be aroused. To all the changes and sup- 
pressions suggested by timorous politicians one may largely 
attribute the failure of the play. The expenses were one 
hundred and twenty pounds l a night, and at the fifth per- 
formance the receipts had fallen to one hundred and twelve 
pounds. Thus a change of programme soon became im- 
perative. Zola naturally was vexed. "It is largely the 
fault of the newspapers," said he to Edmond de Goncourt; 
they din into their readers' ears that only amusing plays 

i About $600. 


are worth seeing. But the misfortune is that on account 
of this piece I have had to put my novel *Le K$ve* on 
one side and have thus lost time." 

''La B6ve* appeared in volume form in the autumn of 
1888, 1 and subsequently, in conjunction with M. Louis 
Gallet, Zola drew from his story a libretto for his friend 
M. Alfred Bruneau, the composer, from whom the much- 
discussed opera " Le K$ve " came three years later. 2 Mean- 
time Zola had written his novel, "La Bdte Humaine," 
which was suggested in part, undoubtedly, by "Jack the 
Ripper" and the theory of "homicidal mania/* and in part 
by the mysterious death of a certain French prefect, named 
Barreme, who had been found assassinated in a railway 
carriage, We know that Zola had contemplated a book on 
the railway world for several years, but had been at a loss 
how to utilize such a subject in fiction. The Barr&me affair 
extricated him from his difficulty, and was clearly indicated 
as one of Ms sources of inspiration in the " puff preliminary " 
which ** La Vie Populaire w printed before beginning to pub- 
lish the story in November, 1889 : " The principal episode 
of * La Bfite Humaine/ " said this announcement, " is a mur- 
der in a railway train; and there are so many points of 
similarity between the terrible scene depicted by Zola and 
the mysterious death of Prefect Barreme, that one may well 
inquire if the novelist, with an intuition superior to that 

1 *'IiC KSre," Paris, Charpentier, 1893, 18mo, 310 pages. Some copies 
on Dutch, India, and Japanese papers. Eighty-eighth, thousand in 1893 ; one 
hundred and sixteenth thousand in 1903. Illustrated edition : Flammarion, 
1888, 4to ; illustrations "by Carlos Schwob and Me*tiyet ; one hundred and 
fifty copies on Dutch paper. Was sold in parts at 10 centimes. Jeanniot 
had illustrated the story in **La Revue Illustre'e," which paid Zola one 
thousand pounds for the serial rights. 

3 First performed at the Ope*ra Comique, June 18, 1891. 


of the police, has not supplied the most probable explanation 
of that dark affair.** 

In a letter addressed to M. Charpentier in August, 1889, 
while he was writing '* La B&te Humaine," at M&ian, Zola 

** I am working on my novel passionately and shall certainly 
have finished it by December 1. ... I hope to take Fasquelle l 
the first seven chapters on September 15, in order that they may 
bo immediately set in type. ... I have a desperate desire to 
finish my Eougon-Macquart series as soon as possible. I should 
like to be rid of it in January, '92. This may be managed, but I 
shall have to work very hard, I am fortunately in a good condi- 
tion for work, I enjoy the most perfect health, and feel again 
as I did when I was twenty. 3 . . . "We shall return to Paris on 
September 10, and settle quietly in our new quarters. 8 That 
will take us quite six weeks, and we should like to be settled 
before the cold weather comes. There is a great deal to be done, 
but wo shall do it leisurely, even if we have to postpone furnish- 
ing the place completely until later. In December we shall 
return to Me*dan to kill the pig, and, if it suits you, you shall 
come with us.* The weather here is horrible. ... I hope you 
will have some sunshine as you have gone yonder [to the Riviera] 
in search of it. ... Ah ! my friend if I were only thirty, you 
should see what I would do ! I would stagger the world 1 " 

It was in the spring of 1890 that * La Bte Humaine M 
appeared in volume form; and to some readers it might 
seem that Zola showed great boldness in coming forward 

1 M. Eugene Fasquelle had now acquired an interest in M. Gharpentier's 
publishing business, which he ultimately purchased. 

2 This was the result of having rid himself of his obesity. 

8 The allusion is to the house in the Hue do Bruxelles (21 &&), which 
Zola made his Paris home until his death. 

* In his later years Zola kept Christmas and Few Year's Day at M6dan, 
and then usually had a house-party there. 



as a candidate for the French Academy at the very time 
of issuing such a work, 1 one of his most audacious. That 
however, would be in some degree an error, as we propose 
to Bhow. 

A great deal has heen written on the subject of the 
Academy and the failure of eminent men to secure admis- 
sion to its ranks. Various considerations have influenced 
it at different times, but it has generally shown a marked 
dislike for innovators, men of independent character, and 
pushing proclivities. To have presented oneself for election, 
even repeatedly, and to have failed to find acceptance, can 
be counted no dishonour. Victor Hugo came forward four 
times in succession, but only on the fourth did he secure 
the necessary number of votes. In the old days, to quote 
only a few instances, the doors of the Academy were shut 
to great men like Descartes and Moli^re, and even to 
men of high standing, like La Eochefoucauld, the moralist. 
In our days Balzac was several times an unsuccessful can- 
didate ; while if Dumas Jils found favour with the Immortals 
his father was always rigidly excluded from their midst. 
And apropos of the authors of "Eug&nie Grandet" and 
" Los Trois Mousquetaires," as of Zola also, one may point 
out that it is only of recent years that novelists have 
figured, in any number, among the Academicians. Even 
at this time (1903) one can find merely four men who 
are essentially novelists among the forty. 

It has been mentioned above that the Academy has 
shown no liking for innovators and men of independent and 

1 M La Bte Humaine," Paris, Charpentiet, 1890, 18mo, 419 pages. Some 
copies on Dutch, India, and Japanese papers. Eighty-eighth thousand in 
1893 ; ninety-ninth thousand in 1903. 


self-assertive character; now Zola was all that, and from 
the outset, therefore, difficulties beset him. His views on 
matters of religion were not at first the great obstacle which 
they subsequently became. There had always been a Vol- 
tairean element in the Academy ; and Littrd and Renan had 
eventually secured election in spite of all the bitter hostility 
of Monseigneur Bupanloup, the (t Eagle of Orleans.** True 
it is that Dupanloup had failed to keep them out by the 
very violence of his opposition, and since 1882 the Church 
had been represented in the Academy by a prelate of a 
different character, an unctuous man, Cardinal Perraud, 
who did not bluster like Dupanloup but exerted his influ- 
ence in a stealthy way, after the fashion usually ascribed 
to the Jesuits. To him and his gradually acquired ascend- 
ancy, Zola's final defeat in the struggle for Academical 
honours was largely due. In that respect "Lourdes" and 
"Rome" sealed his fate, as he himself freely acknow- 
ledged to his friends. But when he first came forward as 
a candidate he had written nothing irretrievable from the 
Catholic standpoint. Though he had "The Conquest of 
Plassans" and "Abb4 Mouret's Transgression'* behind him, 
the former dealt only with the political and worldly in- 
trigues of a priest, and the latter, if it questioned the vow 
of perpetual chastity, at least ended with the repentance 
and submission of the offender. Besides, "The Dream/' 
with all its mysticism and religiosity, was of a nature to 
propitiate rather than offend the clericals. 

On the other hand, however, Zola's political and social 
views gave great offence to conservatives generally, and in 
the eighties the Dukes de Broglie and d'Audiffret-Pasquier 
were very powerful in the Academy, They and those who 


followed them regarded the author of "Les Eougon-Mac- 
quart" as a revolutionist. His turbulence and self-asser- 
tiveness alarmed them, and it is indeed quite likely that 
if he had been elected he would have disturbed their qui- 
etude in many ways and possibly have seized the lion's 
share in the control of the Academy's labours. There was 
also, of course, the question of the outspokenness of Nat- 
uralism, which weighed considerably with one section of 
the Academy; 1 though it was never as some English 
writers have assumed it to be the chief cause of Zola's 
failure. Their error sprang from their ignorance of the 
French character. If among those who voted against Zola 
there were half a dozen Academicians who firmly objected 
to his bluntness of expression, the majority was not dis- 
posed to magnify molehills into mountains, particularly as 
the Rabelaisian sense is common to many Frenchmen* But 
there were a score of Academicians who hated what they 
called the "revolutionary spirit" of Zola's writings, and 
who feared, too, that this pushing, energetic man who had 
been called "the Shark/' as he himself admitted with a 
chuckle, might swallow them up if he became a member 
of their body. At all events such is the explanation 
given privately to the writer by some who supported 
Zola's earlier candidatures, and they ought to know the 
truth. Later, as already indicated, the religious question 
arose, and the opposition to Zola then became the more 
determined owing to the influence which Cardinal Perraud 

1 It is notorious that Taine, who led a section of the Academicians, that 
of the " university men," opposed Zola because he used vulgar and even slang 
words in some of his writings. Taine, moreover, was in full sympathy with 
the aristocratic element in the Academy with respect to its endeavours to make 
the institution a kind of deadly-lively social cluh. 


and his first lieutenant, the Count de Jfun, exerted at every 

Zola's earliest Academical patrons were his friends, Fran- 
ois Coppfe and Ludovie Hal^vy. Dumas fl& likewise 
supported him, as mentioned in a previous chapter. So 
did Jules Claretie, to the very end. Over a term of years 
he presented himself nearly a score of times, and on each 
occasion the votes cast for him dwindled, until at last 
only Claretie's was left. His other friends shrewdly re- 
garded the struggle as hopeless. Some people have thought 
that if Zola had lived a few years longer he might have 
proved successful, hut the writer does not share that view. 
For the last thirty years to go back no farther the 
Academy has been essentially conservative in its political 
and social views. To preserve a kind of reputation for 
fairness it has elected, now and again, a man of more or 
less advanced opinions; but the majority has always re- 
mained much the same, the " liberal " members never being 
more than ten or twelve in number. On consulting the 
list for 1903 one can only find nine who by some possi- 
bility might have combined together to vote for a man 
like Zola. On the other hand, it is not unlikely that time 
will bring certain revenges. Comparatively few years ago 
the Academy, which had repeatedly closed its doors to the 
author of "La Com^die Humaine," selected the "Eulogy 
of Honor6 de Balzac " as the subject of its " Prize for 
Eloquence " ; and at some future date the " Eulogy of fimile 
Zola " may be similarly chosen. 

Zola was in nowise cast down when, at his first at- 
tempt to gain admittance (1890), M. Charles de Freycinet, 
a clever man, who did some good work during the war of 


1870, but who afterwards degenerated into one of the hack 
politicians of the Third Eepublic, was chosen in preference 
to himself. 1 He had anticipated it, but he was resolved 
to offer himself for election at each fresh opportunity. " I 
am. making history, literary history/ 1 he would say after 
one and another rebuff. "So much the worse for the 
Academy! Our grandnephews will learn that it refused 
me admittance twenty or thirty times in succession*" 

After " La BSte Humaine " in the summer of 1890, Zola 
turned to "L* Argent/' a tale of the Paris financial world, 
inspired chiefly by the crash of the Union G^ndrale Bank 
some years before. Of all the subjects he had hitherto 
approached he found this the most difficult to treat. He 
had no financiers among his friends, he had never dabbled 
in Bourse gambling, and was at a loss for information re- 
specting much of the inner working of what the French call 
la "kawte bangm. However, while frequenting the Bourse 
almost daily for a whole month, he obtained enlightenment 
from some gentlemen of the stock-broking world, to whom 
he was introduced. He also studied the detailed reports of 
the great swindles of previous years, going back as far as 
the time of the notorious Mirs, which was, of course, le- 
gitimate, the period of his story being that of the Second 
Empire. One may add that in writing his book he did 
not spare some of the Jew financiers of Paris. " I/ Argent " 
appeared serially in the " Gil Bias," which paid twelve hun- 
dred pounds for the privilege, and was issued as a volume 
in 1891. 2 Goncourt mentions that while Zola was writing 

1 At subsequent elections lie was defeated by Pierre Loti, Henri de Bor- 
nier, Thureau-Dangin, Ferdinand Branetiere, etc. 

2 U L* Argent," Charpentier, 1891, 18mo, 451 pages. Some copies on 
Dutch, India, and Japanese papers ; eighty-third thousand in 1893; eighty- 
ninth thousand in 1903. 


the work he again expressed his anxiety to finish his series. 
There were to be only two more volumes, one on the Franco- 
German war of 1870, and the other, in which he then took 
most interest, a general summing-up of his ** family history >f 
by a scientific man, Dr. Pascal Eougon, whom he thought 
of marrying to some retrograde, bigoted woman who would 
destroy successively everything he wrote. And Zola sighed 
that he wished he could obtain permission to inspect the 
papers of Claude Bernard, on whose published writings he 
had reared, as will be remembered, Ms theory of le roman 
experimental. As for his projected " war " book, he did not 
think he could make much of a novel of it His idea at 
that moment was to show some character " promenading** 
through the siege of Paris and the Commune. 1 

When, however, he took the subject in hand spending 
the greater part of 1891 in collecting and classifying mate- 
rials 2 his views changed, and he decided rightly to make 
the battle of Sedan the keystone of the work. The expres- 
sion "la db&cle" occurs already in Alexis's "Notes d'un 
Ami," published in 1882, but at a later stage Zola thought 
of calling his book " La Guerre " (" War *) It is just possi- 
ble that this was because a couple of French novels bearing 
the title of "La Debacle" were in existence already. 3 
However, French authors are much less punctilious than 

1 "Journal des Goncourt, 1 ' Vol. VIII, p. 141. 

2 Towards the close of the summer he allowed himself a holiday and repaired 
to the Pyrenees with his wife. It was then (September) that he first visited 
Lourdes and was struck by the sight of the pilgrimages. Ifc immediately 
occurred to him that they would supply a good subject for a book, and to study 
them more closely he returned to Lourdes in the summer of 1892. 

* The writer must admit that he has seen neither, but he has found one 
catalogued under the names of M. Claretie, the other under that of M. Ca- 
mille Etievant. Both had appeared before 1885. It is of course possible that 
Zola had never heard of them. 


English ones with respect to titles, and it would be easy to 
mention several instances in which the same has been used 
by different writers three or four times over. In any 
case, Zola reverted to the title of "La Dbcle" as being 
the most appropriate to his series, signifying as it did the 
" smash-up w of that imperial regime whose society he had 
been describing so long ; and though charges of plagiarism 
were so often brought against him, it would not appear that 
any arose on this occasion. 

Zola had found " L* Argent " a difficult subject, and now 
the preparation of " La D^bUcle " proved a herculean task 
for him. He had never witnessed an engagement in the 
field ; military matters were almost as foreign to him as fi- 
nancial ones. He had dealt with them in a few short stories 
only, such as " Le Capitaine Burle " and " Les Quatre Jour- 
n4es de Jean Gourdon." But he now visited all the battle- 
fields which were to figure in his narrative, he followed the 
line of march of the Seventh Army Corps, whose suffer- 
ings he intended to describe, he studied everything that had 
been printed and published in France on his subject, and he 
was fortunate enough to secure a large number of letters 
and manuscripts in which eye-witnesses recounted one and 
another episode of the battle of Sedan. Some of those com- 
munications emanated from " privates," who set down their 
own curious personal experiences and often naive impres- 
sions ; and for Zola's purpose these were even more valuable 
than the reports of generals and other officers. What he 
made of his subject the world knows ; of all the books he 
ever wrote " La Dftftele " has circulated the most widely. 

One notable effect of that great epic on war was to deter- 
mine some revulsion of feeling in England with respect to 


the novelist Directly the liquidation of Vizetelly & Co/a 

business had been decided on, Ernest Vizetelly hail found 
his occupation gone, for there were no new books to be in- 
itiated or seen through the press, and even most of those 
already in hand were abandoned, at least for the time. 
Vizetelly was therefore reduced to very great straits. At a 
moment's notice, so to say, he had to seek a living elsewhere. 
He was a journalist by profession, but for two or three 
years he had virtually severed his connection with news- 
papers. Moreover, his press work had almost invariably 
been that of a foreign correspondent, and his experience of 
such duties, even with some knowledge of European lan- 
guages and politics thrown in, did not give him much 
chance of securing work in London. Again, one editor 
under whom he had written for eleven years had retired ; 
another was dead. He knocked at a few editorial doors and 
encountered an unpromising reception. There was a de- 
cided prejudice against anybody bearing his name. After 
the release of his father from Holloway he helped him in a 
few little ventures, but was unable to secure any regular re- 
munerative work. Many young men with only themselves 
to think of often find it hard to begin life ; it is harder still 
to begin it afresh when one is seven and thirty and has 
given hostages to fortune. Vizetelly was married, had two 
children, and was expecting the advent of another child. 
Robert Buchanan, whom he often saw in connection with his 
father's troubles, inquired about his own private circum- 
stances, and on learning the position generously helped him. 
" As you know," said Buchanan, " there are certain people 
who taunt me in the papers because I draw a Civil List 
pension and yet make a considerable income by my pen. 


Well, the truth is, Vketelly, that the pension often proves 
very useful It will help me to assist you, as it has helped 
me to assist a good many others/' 

When the haby was born and Vketelly's wife was on foot 
again, " they took their courage in both hands," as the French 
say, and moved to a neighbourhood where living was cheap. 
And though their street was * slummy," and from their front 
windows ragged urchins were constantly to be seen fetching 
penn'orths of porter in pewter cans, and often sampling 
the liquor on their way home, there lay behind the little 
house they rented a large cabbage field, beyond which were 
the grounds of Carnwath House and all the trees of Hurl* 
ingham. Vizetelly chose for his work a first-floor room, 
whence one looked out on the cabbage patch and the trees, 
and tried to devise some means of earning a living. For a 
while the sale of his books and the pawnshop helped him, 
and he gradually contrived to dispose of a few articles to 
newspapers. But the one idea that haunted him was to 
bring Zola to the front again in England. It was neither 
friendship for Zola nor an overpowering admiration for his 
writings that inspired that idea. Vizetelly thought chiefly 
of the ruin of his family and the odium cast on it by all 
that had happened. At the same time he knew that Zola 
as well as his father had been cruelly maligned by the 
Pecksniffs and those who had abetted them. 

Unfortunately nothing could be done at once. The next 
book that Zola wrote (after "Le Kve") was "La Bte 
Humaine," and such was the state of public opinion that it 
seemed impossible to produce even a bowdlerised version of 
that work in England. Vizetelly felt as he had felt with 
respect to the earlier translations that one must proceed 


cautiously, that the ground must be well prepared in 
advance if the doctrine of outspokenness were ever to tri- 
umph. His father had acted too audaciously, too precipi- 
tately, with little or no diplomacy. And diplomacy was 
needed. It was useless to run against a wall of Cootes 
and Clarkes, an outflanking movement must be tried. 

After "La Bte Surname" came "L'Argent," and that 
book and its subject did not seem attractive enough to pave 
the way for a genuine revival of Zola in England. So 
Vizetelly again had to wait. It was a dreary time, but his 
wife was as plucky a woman as lived, and between them 
they managed to keep the wolf from the door. At last, in 
the summer of 1891, on hearing that Zola had begun a 
novel on the Franco-German war, it occurred to Vizetelly 
that the opportunity for which he had been waiting since 
1889 might be at hand. There were great possibilities in 
the subject chosen by Zola, and it was one which had much 
attraction for Vizetelly, who with boyish ambition had tried 
what he could do with his pen and his pencil amid the 
fierce struggle which was now to be Zola's theme. 

Communications ensued between them, but though the 
novelist speedily assented to the suggestions made to him, 
Vizetelly had much difficulty in finding an English news- 
paper willing to publish a translation of " La Db&cle " while 
the original was appearing in " La Vie Populaire." " Le 
Figaro," one may mention, had offered Zola a very large 
sum for the privilege of serialising that work ; but he had 
declined the proposal, saying that it would be absurd to 
publish his narrative of the battle of Sedan, some two 
hundred pages long, in short daily "snippets." He preferred 
to take the twelve hundred pounds offered him by "La 


Vie Populaire," which appeared weekly, and was able to 
allot several pages of each number to his work. 

Vizetelly naturally desired to issue his translation in an 
English journal, but editors feared apparently that they 
might soil their immaculate hands if they had anything to 
do with the loathsome Zola. Thus there were repulses upon 
every side, until Mr. Kibblewhite, of the " Weekly Times and 
Echo,'* rising above the general prejudice, accepted the pro- 
posals made to him. The translation as inserted in the 
** Weekly Times ' ' was anonymous, for Vizetelly was too 
shrewd to thrust himself forward after all that had happened, 
However, he now tried to find a firm willing to publish 
" The Downfall/ 1 as the translation was called, in a volume ; 
and again, in this respect also, he encountered several rebuffs. 
Two publishers to whom proofs were sent returned the 
parcels unopened ; others, who were visited, curtly declined 
to negotiate; one made a low offer, so low as to give the 
author little and the translator virtually nothing. Thus the 
book went begging. Vizetelly became disheartened, and his 
wife eventually suggested that he should cease his efforts, 
since they only consumed time in which he might have 
earned a little money. He felt she was right, but as a last 
attempt he sent a few of his proofs, with a letter, to Messrs. 
Chatto and Windus. This was a kind of forlorn hope. 
Judging by the firm's catalogue, there was apparently little 
prospect that it would accept anything by Zola. But Mr. 
Andrew Chatto and his partner, Mr. Percy Spalding, set 
prejudices aside and took the trouble to look at what was 
submitted to them. They agreed to publish the book, and 
were recompensed for their enterprise by its very great 
success. Such, then, was the origin of a connection which, 


as some readers may know, resulted In Messrs. Cliatto pub- 
lishing nearly all the Zola translations and "revisions" 
attempted by Ernest Vize telly. 

In the case of a new work by a foreign author of established 
reputation, it is usually advisable that the translation should 
appear at the same time as the original ; but, owing to cir- 
cumstances, the success of "The Downfall" was helped 
materially by the earlier issue of the French volume. 
Directly the latter appeared in Paris 1 Vizetelly recom- 
mended it to a few former war correspondents ; and as the 
praise which Archibald Forbes bestowed upon Zola's work 
in a literary journal exercised some influence, a dozen lauda- 
tory articles soon found their way into the newspapers. 

Moreover " La D6Mcle " created an extraordinary sensation 
in France, Germany, and other parts of Europe. The foreign 
correspondents of the English press repeatedly had occasion 
to refer to it, thus virtually compelling attention to the book. 
In Paris Zola's enemies assailed him fiercely. They wanted 
to know what he himself had done during the Franco- 
German war. The Imperialists accused him of having 
slandered Napoleon III. The more zealous patriots declared 
it was disgraceful to have written such a book, which, said 
they, was a mere speculation on the country's misfortunes. 
And some took particular offence at the title of " La Db&cle." 

* "LaDe"bcle," Paris, Charpentier and Fasquelle, 1892, ISrao, 620 pages ; 
one hundred and seventy-sixth thousand in 1893 ; two hundred and seventh, 
thousand in 1903. Illustrated edition: Paris, Flammarion, n. d., 4to, 527 
pages ; illustrations by Jeanniot ; ninety copies on India, Japanese, and Dutch 
papers. The Bavarian Captain Tanera attacked the book in " Le Figaro," 
September 19, 1892, and his communication was reprinted by Lemerre, 
8 pages, 8vo. Zola's answer to him, ** Retour de Voyage," was also published 
by Lemerre, 1892, 18mo, 21 pages j forty copies printed, all numbered, those 
bearing odd numbers being on Dutch paper. 


Why indeed had not the author chosen another? Zola, 
mildly astonished by this question, made answer that it was 
not he hut the Emperor and his generals who had lost the 
battle of Sedan, and that he would infinitely have preferred 
to write a very different hook if the military men had only 
allowed him to do so. 

The work had been published as a volume in June (1892). 
and in August Zola, accompanied by his wife, betook himself, 
to Lourdes to witness the more important pilgrimages there, 
a glimpse of which he had obtained the previous autumn. 
From Lourdes he made his way to Italy, where he now set 
foot for the first time* On this occasion he would seem to 
have gone no further than Genoa, where he remained a 
short time, and where some attention was shown him. 
Early in October he arrived at Monte Carlo on his way 
home and wrote to Yizetelly, saying, " I am about to return 
to Paris to begin my next book, * Dr. Pascal/ It will be a 
story of private life and passion in the style of ' Une Page 
d'Amour' and <La Joie de Vivre.' Its chief interest will 
lie in its being the last volume of the * Rougon-Macqnart ' 
series. In France it will hardly appear serially before 
February next, but you may already try to place an English 
translation of it It will not offend the modesty of your 

The translation was promptly offered to the "Weekly 
Times " and accepted by it, the book rights being reserved. 
Under date November 4, Zola confirmed this arrangement, 
and writing again, ten days later, he said : " I can under- 
take to say that the story will contain nothing to offend 
the prudery of your compatriots, and, besides, I give you 
full authority to modify any passages which may seem to 


you to be inquittants" As some may be aware, there were 
certain passages of that nature ; and Yizetelly, bent on pro- 
ceeding cautiously and diplomatically, deleted them, 

Zola naturally took great pleasure in writing this book 
for, as he remarked to his friend, Mr. Sherard, it gave him 
an opportunity to pass his entire series in review and 
defend himself against many of the accusations brought 
against him* 

" It is not a book to stir the passions of the multitude," he 
said ; " it is a scientific work, the logical outcome and conclusion 
of all my previous volumes ; and at the same time it is my speech 
for the defence before the court of public opinion. ... It will be 
a sermon on atavism and will set forth my theory that when 
men know how to master its influence they will be masters of 
their own destinies. And the conclusion will be the philosophical 
one which I have sought ever since I first took pen in hand to 
write the series ; that we ought to have faith in life and confidence 
in Nature. * . . Yes, that despite all that is cruel and ugly and 
incomprehensible in Nature, despite all the suffering and in- 
justice of life, all that is bad and seems irremediable in the 
world, we ought to preserve confidence in Nature, and stake 
our hopes on effort and work. Further, that, though we may 
not see it, we are surely pushing forward towards a certain end 
and object ; that there is a field of hope in Nature, and that good 
will come out of all that is bad, that justice will emerge from the 
slough of injustice, that a day of beauty will dawn after a night 
of hideous darkness, and that the result of all our efforts and our 
suffering must surely be one that will reward the first and com- 
pensate us for the other." l 

Zola sold the first French serial rights in "Le Docteur 
Pascal " to a periodical called " La Rdvue hebdomadaire," 2 

1 Abbreviated from Sherard, I, c,, p. 251 et seq. 
3 It paid him 1,400 = about $7,000. 


In which the story appeared from March till June, 1893. 
With the volume, issued a few weeks later, 1 a new genea- 
logical tree of the Eougon-Macquart family was given, 
this including the names of the additional members created 
by Zola's fancy since his first inception of the series. 

To celebrate its completion his publishers gave a dejeuner 
champltre at the Chalet restaurant on the larger of the 
Grand Lac islands in the Bois de Boulogne. A numerous 
company of literary men and artists assembled there, but 
the proceedings may have aroused some jealousy among a 
few old friends, for men like Daudet and Goncourt were 
absent. The former, who had long since renounced the 
Academy and all its pomps, did not approve of Zola's 
*' perpetual candidature " he was, by the way, then offer- 
ing himself for three fauteuih simultaneously and thus 
there was a coldness between them. Goncourt also was 
opposed to the Academy, and meditated the establishment 
of a rival one of his own " for novelists only." So in this 
case again there was some coldness, particularly as Zola 
felt that certain references to himself in the earlier volumes 
of the "Journal des Goncourt," then lately issued, were 
not quite such as one might have expected from a bosom 
friend. We know, however, by later entries in the " Jour- 
nal," that Zola and Goncourt continued to meet virtually 
until the latter's death. True it is that Goncourt at one 
time meant to appoint Zola to the chief position in his 
so-called "Academy," and that he afterwards renounced 
that intention. But, contrary to what some writers have 

1 "Le Doeteur Pascal," Paris, Charpentier and Fasquelle, 1893, 18rao, 
390 pages ; some copies on special papers ; eighty-eighth thousand in 1893, 
soon after publication ; ninety-fourth thousand in 1903. 

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Facsimile letter fron Zola to Vizetelly 


asserted, Zola was by no means disappointed at being 
left out of it. As a matter of fact, he had deliberately 
rendered himself ineligible by seeking admittance to the 
real Academy; and, besides, from the outset he had 
put very little faith in Goncourfs scheme. However, his 
friendship with Goncourt and Daudet, whatever their dif- 
ferences, subsisted till the last. Of the part which he took 
when Daudet died some mention will be made hereafter. 

At the lunch at the Chalet des lies the novelist's health 
was proposed by his old friend and publisher, M. Char- 
pentier, and after the toast had been acknowledged, M. 
Catulle Mendfes, who, as will be remembered, had gallantly 
assisted Zola when the columns of "La Cloche " and "Le 
Bien Public" were closed to "La Cur<5e" and "L'Assom- 
inoir," spoke of the old quarrels between the Naturalists 
and the Parnassians, to which, latter sect he, Mend&s, had 
belonged. And, said he, though he still looked upon 
poetry as a much superior art to prose, he was anxious 
to declare publicly that he regarded Zola as one of the 
great literary glories of France. This was very pretty ; 
and the novelist, not to be left behind in. a matter of com- 
pliments, responded by referring to Mend&s as a perfect 
artist and a good friend. Finally he proposed a toast to 
work, his old hobby, as he called it, the only one in 
which true happiness could be found. For some inscrut- 
able reason General lung whose researches into the 
Iron Mask mystery may be remembered, and who happened 
to be among the guests on this occasion thought the 
moment appropriate to re-echo a remark which had run 
through the newspapers, and to which one has already 
referred. "Monsieur Zola," said he, "you have written 



* The Smash-up ' (' La D$b&cle '), let us hope that you will 
soon write * Victory/ " " Ah, general !" replied Zola, rais- 
ing his forefinger, " that is your business." And thereupon 
he sat down. 

The value of books is not to be estimated by their 
length or even by their popularity. Yet it may not be 
inappropriate to point out that the Rougon-Macquart se- 
ries, which Zola had now completed, was really a colossal 
performance. Besides a large variety of other work, the 
novelist had written the twenty volumes of that series in 
about five and twenty years, introducing, as he proceeded, 
no fewer than twelve hundred characters to his readers. 
The twenty volumes represented nine thousand pages of 
print, each of three and thirty lines, and, assuming an 
average of nine words per line and making allowance for 
blanks/' by no means numerous in Zola's works, one 
may say that they contained quite two million five hun- 
dred thousand words. Passing to another matter, one finds 
that at the time of the appearance of "Le Docteur Pascal" 
there had been sold over half a million copies of the ordi- 
nary Charpentier edition of the series. The popular illus- 
trated editions of several of the stories, first sold in what 
one may call "penny parts," had also circulated very widely, 
at least to the extent of a quarter of a million copies; 
and further there had been some editions de luxe, copies 
on special papers, and so forth. Moreover, there were five 
novels written before the Rougon-Macquart series was 
begun, with four volumes of short stories and seven vol- 
umes of essays and other papers, issued at various times; 
and one may therefore assume that between eight and 
nine hundred thousand copies of Zola's books had been 


sold at the period we now deal with. And of course 
thousands and thousands of readers had been reached by 
serial publication. Of the circulation of the many trans- 
lations it is impossible to give even an idea, but some of 
the English and American volumes had sold by tens of 
thousands, and there were versions of many of Zola's writ- 
ings in German, Italian, Kussian, Dutch, Hungarian, and 
other languages. But books, as we know, by no means 
represented the whole of Zola's work ; there were also many 
scores, if not hundreds, of ephemeral uncollected newspaper 
articles to be added to them, as well as several plays, so 
that his output stood at quite five million words. It was 
evident then that he practised what he preached, that 
gospel of work, which others, such as Tolstoi, the prophet of 
resignation, occasionally derided but which he himself found 

He took it as a part of his text when speaking at a 
gathering of the Paris Students' Association, over which 
he presided that year, 1893, 1 for though the Academy still 
refused him admittance, some recognition of his labours 
was coming from other quarters. On the occasion of the 
National F@te, following the completion of his great series, 
he was raised from the rank of chevalier to that of officer 
of the Legion of Honour ; and for some years in succession, 
a very rare occurrence, he was chosen as President de la 
Socit4 des Gens de Lettres. It was this circumstance 
that caused the English Institute of Journalists to invite 

1 A translation of the address in question (made by the present writer) ap- 
peared in "The New Keview," No. 50, July, 1893, under the title of "Life 
and Labour." Besides expounding the gospel of work, Zola answered the 
writers of Brunetiere's coterie who had started the nonsensical cry of the 
" bankruptcy of Science." 


him and other representative French writers to attend one 
of its congresses in London. Zola's connection with. Ernest 
Vizetelly had now become a close one. A translation of 
w Le Docteur Pascal * had followed that of "La Debacle," 
and arrangements had been made for an English version 
of a previous work, "L'Argent," Zola indorsing all Vke- 
telly's proposals in a letter in which he said: "My dear 
confrere, I leave translation matters entirely to you, and 
it is sufficient you should tell me that an arrangement is 
good for me to accept it I know you to be devoted to 
my interests, and you are well placed to decide every- 
thing," 1 Under these circumstances, early in August 
1893, soon after receiving the invitation of the Institute 
of Jotirnalists, Zola communicated with Vizetelly and asked 
him for certain information. "I should like to know," he 
wrote, "what will be the importance of this congress, and 
whether it will offer much interest You know my posi- 
tion in London; my work is still very much questioned 
there, almost denied. It certainly seems to me that my 
presence, and the words I might speak, might efface much 
of the misunderstanding, and that it would be politic to 
accept, in order to influence opinion. But what is your 
view? Eeply to me at once at M&lan." 

Vizetelly, in his reply, reviewed the situation such as it 
had become since the " The Downfall " which had conduced 
to a movement in Zola's favour. The English critics, he 
said, still made all sorts of reserves, asserting, for instance, 
that a new Zola had come into being and one of them even 

1 The writer holds several letters written to him by Zola at various times, 
expressing similar reliance on his judgment To print them all would be to 
exaggerate their importance, The above will suffice as a specimen.. 


claiming that there were three Zolas, the author of "La 
Terre," the author of Le B&ve," and the author of " La D6- 
Mcle " ; for they were still so far from the truth, so unable 
to grasp the significance of the Bougon-Macquart series as a 
whole, that they could only explain the latter works by pic- 
turing some wonderful change in the novelist. Had they 
looked into the matter more closely they would have found 
" Le BSve," with all its mysticism and poetry, followed by 
one of Zola's most naturalist volumes, " La Bte Humaine," 
which alone, by reason of its place in the series, demonstrated 
the fallacy of their assumption. But as Vizetelly pointed 
out, they, and English people generally, had to be taken as 
they were. The position had certainly improved, and Zola's 
presence in London might well make it better still, for in 
conversation as well as in his speeches he might be able to 
clear up many misunderstandings. At the same time it was 
proper to bear in mind that the Institute of Journalists had 
members in all parts of the country, and Vizetelly did not 
know how far the provincial districts might share the views 
of the London district, whence the invitation had emanated. 
Personally he was very much in favour of Zola accepting it, 
but he would make some inquiries before anything further 
was done. Zola himself thought that course advisable, for 
he at once replied : " If I did not immediately answer the 
invitation it was precisely because I felt somewhat distrust- 
ful, though it is difficult to believe that they have invited me 
with the intention of receiving me badly. I do not wish 
the English press to promise it will sing my praises, but I 
should like to be quite certain it will be polite while I am 
its guest. Please make the inquiries you propose, and tell 
me frankly what you think of the situation." And he added 


in a postscript : " I forgot to tell you that the invitation is 
addressed to M. JSmile Zola, President de la Soci6t des 
Gens de Lettres." 

That postscript was all important, for it explained the 
character of the invitation. Various amenities had passed 
"between the French Society and the Institute of Journa- 
lists already, and now the Institute, being about to hold a 
conference in London, had courteously invited the officials 
of various foreign organisations. It so happened that Zola 
was one of the officials in question. If some other man had 
held his position in the Socit des Gens de Lettres in 1893 
that other man would certainly have been invited, and Zola 
in all likelihood would not have been asked at all. But the 
circumstances were not fully understood at the time, and 
some badly informed controversialists, in their anger at 
finding the hateful Zola a guest of an English newspaper 
organisation, subsequently heaped undeserved abuse on the 
Institute of Journalists, Vizetelly, however, made various 
inquiries of the Institute's officials, and having satisfied 
himself that Zola would have no reason to complain of his 
reception, he again wrote suggesting that the invitation 
should be accepted. On August 18 Zola, who meantime had 
also consulted M. George Petilleau, the official delegate of 
the Soci^t^ des Gens de Lettres in England, 1 responded ; 

*' I have just accepted, officially, the invitation of the English 
journalists, so it is quite decided that I shall attend their congress, 
It would be very kind of you to keep me informed of any incidents 
that may arise, and I also rely on you to let me know as soon as 
possible what toast I shall have to acknowledge [at the Institute's 

1 Mr. Petilleau has also "been for many years President of the National So- 
ciety of French Masters in England. He is French professor at Charterhouse. 


dinner], I understand also that I shall be asked to speak on the 
question of anonymity in journalism. That is a big question in 
England, is it not 1 It would be very kind of you to tell me what 
you think of it, and what the majority of English journalists think. 
I want to know the ground beforehand." 

Then on August 22 he wrote : 

My dear Confrere, I am preparing the few pages I wish to read 
on anonymity in English journalism, and I should like to have 
what information you can give me. I forgot to insist on one 
point : Is literary and artistic criticism anonymous, like other 
things, in England? Do your critics, I mean those who judge 
books and works of art, also refrain from signing their articles 1 
Give me a little information on that point. Tell me clearly what 
is the position of criticism on your side (ckez wus), if it numbers 
any remarkable men, if they are known, and if people become im- 
passioned for or against them as in France. Again thanks, and 
very cordially yours, E. Z. 

Vizetelly replied by sending him a memorandum, running 
to perhaps a thousand words, and Zola was further primed 
with information by others, some London correspondents of 
the French press, and also M. Petilleau, who took a prom- 
inent part in the proceedings. Writing again to Vizetelly 
on August 27, Zola said : " A thousand thanks for your ex- 
cellent notes, they will enable me to write something inter- 
esting." In the same letter he gave some information 
respecting " Lourdes " which he was then preparing, and he 
again referred to that work in a note dated August 30, when 
he said : " I shall try every effort to make it one-fifth shorter 
than ' La Debacle/ for such long novels are disastrous in 
France." Those efforts, however, were hardly successful, for 
when "Lourdes" was finished it proved to be only forty 
pages shorter than the novel on the war. 


Though Yizetelly now had plenty of work before him 
for besides completing the edition of " The Heptameron " 
on which he had been engaged in 1889, he was helping 
his father with his reminiscences, he was anxious to make 
early arrangements with respect to " Lourdes " in the hope 
of profiting by any reaction in Zola's favour which the 1 
forthcoming visit to London might promote. In that 
respect, while he observed with pleasure that English 
newspaper men seemed to be recovering from their former 
aberration, he thought it hardly right to leave Zola entirely 
in the hands of a profession, many of whose members, 
only a few years previously, had covered him with unmiti- 
gated abuse. In these circumstances he communicated 
with Mr. afterwards Sir Walter Besant, whom he knew to 
be well informed respecting Zola and his works, 1 and who 
had also shown great personal kindness at the time of the 
Yizetelly prosecution. Besant took the hint immediately, 
but was almost at a loss what to suggest, for in all proba- 
bility in the latter part of September, when Zola would 
arrive in London, few English authors of note would be 
there. However, he saw Mr. Oswald Crawfurd, chairman 
of the Authors' Club, and Mr. Crawfurd, a man of broad 
views like Besant himself, took up the matter with alacrity. 
During the interval which ensued, Mr. Besant wrote several 
times to Ernest Yizetelly, going so far, on one occasion, as 
to say, " A dinner will be given at the club to M. Zola and 
yourself on any day to be named as quickly as possible 
by yourself." But Yizetelly, while accepting the in- 

1 Sir Walter himself related that "when " L'Assomraoir " came into his 
hands he sat up all night to read it, unable to put it down until he had 
reached the last word. 


vitation on Zola's behalf, and also quite willing to attend 
the dinner, felt that he must not attempt to take any 
prominent part in the proceedings. If he had foreseen 
that his father, who was still living in retirement near 
Tilford, would be dead some three months later, he might 
have adopted quite another course, in order to procure 
some personal satisfaction for the poor old man who had 
been pelted with mud, ruined, and sent to prison. But 
he thought it premature to bring his father forward 
at that juncture, and therefore he said nothing to Mm or 
to anybody else on the subject. Thus it came to pass 
that after Zola's visit, the inquiry, a Where was Vizetelly ? " 
started, the writer believes, by Mr. Joseph Hatton 
went the round of the newspapers ; but while some raised 
it with the best of intentions, others repeated it with a 
malicious sneer, a circumstance which seemed to indicate 
that Yizetelly's son had really taken the wisest course. 
When the Journalists' arrangements had been ascertained, 
the Authors' Club dinner was fixed for September 28 ; and 
Zola, writing to Ernest Vizetelly on the twelfth, to express 
his approval, said: "Let me add, that I leave you full 
liberty. Whether those gentlemen invite me as a novelist 
or as President of the Socit des Gens de Lettres, I shall 
in either case feel deeply touched and flattered. I am not 
a formalist ; all genuine sympathy, in whatever respect, will 
go to my heart." 

It was on September 20 that the novelist arrived in 
London 1 in the company of a dozen French journalists, 
MM. Magnard, Scholl, Eobbe, Xau, Mille, and others. Ma- 
dame Zola and a few other ladies were likewise of the party. 

1 Vizetelly met Mm at Calais. 


At Victoria station Sir Edward Lawson, now Lord Burn- 
ham, read in French, an address of welcome, and Zola, 
when like others he had briefly responded, drove to 
the Savoy Hotel, where rooms had been engaged for him. 
The paper on anonymity which he read a couple of days 
afterwards to the journalists assembled in Lincoln's Inn 
Hall was, on the whole, well received. He admitted that 
the practice of signing political articles in France had 
undermined the authority of the press there, and tended 
to the destruction of parties ; but, at the same 'time, said 
he, it had to be recognised that much of the inspiriting 
ardour of the political battle sprang from that same prac- 
tice. On the other hand, as it was the custom for English 
political journalists to write anonymously, it might be 
well if they continued to do so, in order to preserve the 
power and authority of their press. But Zola pleaded 
strongly for signed articles in the departments of literary 
and dramatic criticism, pointing out, by the way, that such 
articles were indeed beginning to appear in certain English 
journals. One remark of his, to the effect that English 
newspaper men were well paid, elicited a loud roar of 
laughter, and there was considerable dissent when he 
likened some journalists to mere writing-machines at the 
beck and call of a superior. On that question some news- 
papers afterwards pointed out that on two occasions when 
there had been a change in the proprietorship of " The Pall 
Mall Gazette " the editors and the bulk of their staff had 
quitted the paper to uphold their opinions elsewhere. One 
may add that later, during the Boer war, various editors 
and others threw up their posts rather than write con- 
trary to their convictions. One passage of Zola's address 


certainly seemed to have the full approval of Ms audience. 
It ran as follows : " To my thinking, when a writer does 
not sign his work, and becomes a mere wheel in a great 
machine, he ought to share the income earned by that 
machine. Have you retiring pensions for your aged jour- 
nalists ? After they have devoted their anonymous labour 
to the common task, year after year, is the bread of their 
old age assured to them ? If they signed their work, surely 
they would find their reward elsewhere ; they would have 
laboured for themselves. But when they have given their 
all, even their fame, strict justice demands that they should 
be treated like those old servants whose whole life has been 
spent in the service of the same family." 

The journalists present having derided the suggestion that 
they were well paid, it seemed only natural that they should 
approve the idea of old-age pensions. At that time, of course, 
there already existed such organisations as the Newspaper 
Press Fund; and since then various pensions have been 
established by the Institute of Journalists ; yet one may well 
wonder if there be even nowadays anything approaching 
adequate provision for the old age of journalists, of whom 
the great majority are able to save little or nothing of their 
earnings. It was undoubtedly this side of the question that 
most influenced Zola in his remarks on anonymity, which he 
regarded as being entirely in the newspaper proprietor's 
favour, for it enabled him, if he chose, to cast a writer adrift 
with nothing of the position which he might have held in 
public esteem as the result of his labours, if his articles had 
been signed. Briefly, in journalism as in other matters, Zola 
was on the side of the worker and against the capitalist. 

No doubt when he was invited to London, purely and 


simply on account of the office he held, It was not foreseen 
that his visit would develop as it did. But although he was 
accompanied by several notahle men he speedily dwarfed 
them all, becoming the centre of attraction at every gathering 
of the Institute of Journalists. There was a great dinner 
at the Crystal Palace, a reception at the Imperial Institute, 
and another, which was given to the journalists by the Lord 
Mayor, at the Guildhall. That historic building was then 
thronged to overflowing, and it was strange indeed remem- 
bering all that had gone before to see Zola and his wife 
marching in a kind of state procession, preceded by the 
City's trumpeters and followed by the Lord Mayor, the 
President of the Institute and other dignitaries, while some 
official who cleared the way called persistently : " Monsieur 
Zola ! Madame Zola 1 " as though a couple of royalties were 

Other entertainments were given at this time. Some of 
the theatres were thrown open to the guests of the Institute 
of Journalists ; Sir Edward Lawson gave them a lunch at 
Taplow, there was a cordial little reception at the Press Club ; 
while the Athenaeum Club conferred honorary membership 
on Zola for the period of his stay in London. That last dis- 
tinction was the most unexpected of all, and assuredly the 
Bishops belonging to the Athenaeum cannot have known of 
it. At the Authors' Club dinner, which closed the round 
of "semi-official" gatherings, there were some eighty men of 
letters, with a sprinkling of publishers and others, present. 
When Mr. Oswald Crawf urd had proposed Zola's health 
which he did in excellent French and very laudatory terms 
the novelist, no orator, as he had carefully stated at the 
outset of his sojourn, read his reply, which may be given 


here as a specimen of his few public utterances, for he did 
not read or make more than a score of speeches in the whole 
course of his career. 

" Since I reached London," he said, " I have received so many 
greetings and have so often been called upon to respond thereto, 
that I am a little ashamed to speak again. I need not, however, 
solicit your indulgent attention for any length of time. Indeed, 
in all modesty, I ask your permission to be very brief on this occa- 
sion* Nothing could have touched me more deeply than your very 
flattering invitation. I know that eminent writers are here assem- 
bled to extend to me the right hand of fellowship, and I feel that 
it is no longer the journalist but the novelist that is being enter- 
tained. (Applause.) Moreover, you have reminded me that in 
Paris I am the president of the Societ^ des Gens de Lettres ; so 
that in my person you honour all French literature. (Applause.) 
I should wish, therefore, to allow my own personality to disappear, 
and be nothing more than the delegate of my French brethren, 
to whom I shall attribute by far the greater part of the very 
cordial homage you have paid to me. I desire, indeed, gentlemen, 
to insist upon the feeling of fitting modesty that I shall carry away 
with me from all these functions. You have told me, Mr. Chair- 
man, that, after conquering the world, I have come to conquer 
England. Will you allow me to reply that I know what I ought 
to think of my conquest 1 Amidst all the plaudits, I well under- 
stand that the opinion of your critics has not changed in regard to 
my works. Only, you have now seen their author, and have found 
him less black than report painted him. (Laughter and applause. ) 
Then, too, you have reflected 'Here is a man who has fought 
hard and worked a great deal'; and belonging as you do to a 
great nation of workers, you have honoured work in me. (Applause.) 
Lastly, it has occurred to you that a man cannot have conquered 
the world according to the facetious expression of two of your 
number without being worthy of some praise. Works of a differ- 
ent order in art to your own may have affronted you, but you 


were too sensible to refrain from according them some recognition 
as soon as you understood how much effort and sincerity they 
embodied* I am leaving London, not, indeed, as one who has 
triumphed, but as a man who is happy at leaving some sympathetic 
feelings behind him. My heart overflows with gratitude for the 
hospitality, so extensive and so refined, that you have accorded 
me. Here I say good-bye, or rather au revoir (loud applause) ; 
and I say it, through you, to your compatriots* I wish, through 
you, to assure my brother authors, my fellow-novelists, that I shall 
never forget the truly royal reception that a mere French writer 
has received in this huge city of London, throbbing with life and 
so worthy of inspiring masterpieces. And, gentlemen, as at the 
close of every banquet it is right to propose a toast, I drink now 
alike to the novelists of England and the novelists of France, to 
the good-fellowship of all authors in one universal republic of 
letters. (Loud applause.) n l 

Ernest Vizetelly was present at the Authors* Club dinner, 
and spent half an hour in the crush at the Guildhall, besides 
hearing Zola read his paper on anonymity. But he abstained 
from attending most of the other festivities. Every morn- 
ing at an early hour he arrived at the Savoy Hotel to 
assist the novelist with his correspondence, the hundreds of 
applications for autographs and interviews, which poured in 
upon him ; and after the first few days, as soon as Zola 
had a little leisure, he took him to see one and another of 
the sights of London. Mr. George Moore also escorted the 
Zolas to Greenwich; Mr. Andrew Chatto gave them a 
friendly luncheon; Mr. afterwards Sir Campbell Clarke 
acted as their cicerone at the National Gallery, and Dr. 
Garnett at the British Museum Library. There were also 
some interesting visits to the French Hospital and the 

1 From a draft of the French text. 


French Club under M. Petilleau's guidance, an excursion 
with Vizetelly and a fellow-journalist to County Council 
and Eowton lodging-houses, Rothschild almshouses, various 
sweaters' dens, sundry Jewish homes in Whitechapel, and 
Italian ones at Saffron Hill. On the whole, however, Zola 
was not impressed by what he saw of London poverty ; he 
declared it to be nothing in comparison with what might 
be found in Paris. There was much want, no doubt, but it 
struck him that the passer-by saw little of it. And to em- 
phasise his meaning he reminded Vizetelly of the Parisian 
ragpickers' "He des Singes" and the woeful Route de la 
Rdvolte, which certainly has never had its parallel in. 
modern London. 

Westminster Abbey naturally interested him, though his 
visit was a very perfunctory one, owing to the haste of the 
usual verger with the sing-song voice. When one first entered 
the abbey, however, some afternoon service was in progress, 
and after standing and watching for a time, Zola whispered 
to Vizetelly: "I did not know this was still a Catholic 
Church." " It is Church of England Protestant," Vizetelly 
answered, whereupon Zola seemed lost in astonishment. 
" Protestant ? " he whispered again, well, all that is very 
much like Mass to me." Then he shrugged his shoulders 
and led the way outside, where one waited till the service 
was over. At the National Gallery he was most interested 
in Turner, whom he called la palette incarnfie and whom he 
regarded as being far superior to Claude. And he greatly 
admired Turner's water-colour sketches in the little rooms 
in the basement of the building, where he lingered for nearly 
a couple of hours. The British Museum Library also pleased 
him immensely, notably on account of its perfect arrange- 


meats which, were so superior, said he, to those of the 
Biblloth&que Rationale in Paris. However, what he admired 
in London most of all was the Thames, at Westminster, at 
Waterloo Bridge, and again at the docks and away towards 
Greenwich. Of Hyde Park he formed a very poor opinion, 
while that royal barracks, Buckingham Palace, seemed to 
him a national disgrace: a view which most intelligent 
foreigners share. 

On the whole, Zola was extremely well pleased with his 
stay in London; he had been received there with perfect 
courtesy, Sir Edward Lawson, Mr. Oswald Crawfurd, Mr. 
Charles Williams, then president of the London district of 
the Institute of Journalists, Mr. Lucien Wolf, and others 
had done all that lay in their power ; and Zola on his side 
had at least made a breach in the wall of British prejudice. 
The result could not be otherwise than good, he said to 
Vizetelly ; there would probably be less antagonism to his 
writings among English people in the future; but the 
point which interested Mm most of all was the effect his 
reception might have in Paris, notably among the members 
of the French Academy. He had been denounced more 
hotly in England than in any other country, he remarked, 
and the fact that English people were now beginning to 
take a more reasonable view of his work might possibly 
react on Trench opinion. But, as we know, the Academy 
did not disarm. The majority of its members would not 
suffer his presence among them on any consideration. 

Moreover, he had scarcely quitted England when the 
fanatics once more raised their heads. At the Church Con- 
gress which assembled at Birmingham that year, Dr. Pe~ 
rowne, the Bishop of Worcester, had the effrontery to 


declare that "Zola had spent his life in corrupting the 
minds and souls not only of thousands of his fellow-coun- 
trymen and especially of the young but also, by the trans- 
lation of his works, thousands and hundreds of thousands 
of young souls elsewhere/* At the same gathering Mr. 
J. K C. Welldon, then Headmaster of Harrow School and 
later Bishop of Bombay, denounced the novelist as "In- 
famous," and besought the aid of Churchmen for the " Na- 
tional Vigilant Association/' of which, according to "The 
National Observer," he, Mr. Welldon, was " a conspicuous 
ornament." 1 The Bishop of Truro, speaking at a church 
gathering in the west of England took a similar line, and 
complained bitterly that translations of Zola's horrible 
books were sold at the railway-station bookstalls, which, 
said he, would never have been allowed in the lifetime of 
that good man, Mr. W. H. Smith. Ernest Vizetelly an- 
swered the prelate in a newspaper of his diocese, point- 
ing out that the only Zola translations sold at Messrs. 
Smith's bookstalls were those of "La DMcle" and "Le 
Docteur Pascal" by himself, and that of "Le Rve" by 
Miss Eliza Chase ; and he defied the bishop to find in any 
one of those three books a single sentence that could give 
offence to any sensible man. Other correspondents rein- 
forced Vizetelly; but the bishop; quite content with having 
uttered his slander, preserved absolute silence, that being a 
characteristic trait with some bishops of various churches 
and countries who, regarding themselves as very supe- 
rior persons, seldom if ever offer reparation for the asper- 
sions they may cast upon laymen* Tet the law of libel 

i "National Observer": "Kealist and Ranter," October 14, 1893. 
Pp. 551-552. 



applies to them as to others, and it is perhaps a pity it 
is not enforced against them* But the lawyers say, or 
at least they said to Vizetelly : " It is useless to proceed 
against an English bishop. There is so much cant in this 
country that yon would never obtain a verdict against 
him, however complete your evidence might be." 

As for Bishop Perowne of Worcester he was answered 
in "The Speaker" by its contributor, Mr. A. T. Quiller- 
Gouch, as well as by sundry correspondents, one of whom 
pointed out that this chartered slanderer " had not so much 
evidence to back his insinuations and assertions as would 
wrap round a mustard seed." Mr. Welldon was also dealt 
with at length and very ably by Mr. Quiller-Couch, the 
controversy in "The Speaker" being prolonged until the 
latter part of November. 1 Ernest Vizetelly was at first 
unaware of it, but a friend who, having little acquaintance 
with literature, read that Liberal weekly chiefly for its po- 
litical articles, said to him one day: "You ought to see 
"The Speaker/ There's a lawyer who is defending Zola 
and your father in it very vigorously. He is the kind of 
man your father ought to have had as counsel at his trial" 
"A lawyer?" Vizetelly replied, "why, what is his name?" 
"Oh! he only appends his initials <A. T/ to his articles; 
but I felt interested, and so I consulted the law-list at 
my club, He's a Queen's counsel, by the way; and the 
only Queen's counsel whose initials are A. T. is the Hon. 
Alfred Thesiger, so he undoubtedly is the man." The 
truth, however, had suddenly dawned on Vizetelly, who 
began to laugh as he answered: "The initials are A. T., 
you say; but the writer puts Q. C. after them, does he 

1 See notably the issues of October 14 and 28, 1903. 


not ? I thought so. Well, I am much obliged to you for 
your information, but you are all at sea. Your Hon. Alfred 
Thesiger, Q. C., is none other than Mr. A. T. Quiller- 
Couch!" Then, while his friend was expressing his as- 
tonishment, Vizetelly began to think of fame. 

In the controversy in question Mr* Welldon, who ended 
by admitting that he had read only three of Zola's books, 
received the support of clerics of various denominations* 
One of them, Canon MacOoll, of Ripon, who would seem to 
have been then very fond of writing to the newspapers on 
all sorts of subjects, raised the old argument that even 
if Zola might have had some justification for publishing, 
for instance, " La Terre " in France, there could have been 
none for its issue in English and in England by Henry 
Vizetelly. No doubt the canon was right. As was set 
forth in a previous chapter the rural districts of England 
were and are terrestrial paradises, where immorality and 
beastliness were and are absolutely unknown. The ob- 
servers who assert the contrary must be either liars or 
deluded fools. The clergy who are to be found in every 
village vouch for the high moral tone of their parish- 
ioners ; and it follows that one must not believe those 
who chance to sit on juries at provincial assizes to try 
the various horrible cases, frequently from the aforesaid 
rural districts, which are never reported by a decorous press. 
Everything is for the best, then, in rural England, and 
the most perfect men in the whole world are the truth- 
speaking bishops who begin life in modest circumstances 
and end by leaving huge fortunes to their families, the 
many-sided canons fond of joining in every controversy, 
and the dogmatic clerical schoolmasters who take as their 


guide the saying attributed, perhaps erroneously, 1 to Eiche- 
lieu : " Give me six lines written by the most honest man 
in the world, and I will find in them enough to have him 
hanged.' 1 

Henry Yketelly, to whom his son forwarded "The 
Speaker" while the controversy continued, observed with 
some surprise Mr. Quiller-Couch's assertion that the public 
conscience would not permit a repetition of such proceedings 
as had been taken against him. He thereupon wrote to Mr. 
Quiller-Couch saying that in his opinion the public con- 
science could only find expression through the press, and 
that in the event of a new prosecution the press would again 
remain silent until the "National Vigilants" had secured 
a verdict, when it would once more join in approving the 
" vindication of the law." That view was shared by Vize- 
tell/s son. Indeed, though Zola had been so well received 
in London, even by some of the provincial journalists who 
attended the Institute's Congress, though, too, newspaper 
men of education had come to a truer perception of his aims, 
aad several wrote very favourably about his more recent 
books, it remained quite certain that he still had numerous 
enemies on all sides. At the close of that year, 1893, or 
more correctly on the first morning of the ensuing one, 
Henry Vizetelly died, and immediately afterwards another 
controversy began, this time in the London " Daily Chron- 
icle." The chief features of the prosecutions of 1888 and 
1889 were recalled by Eobert Buchanan, Frank Harris, and 
George Moore, the first of whom dwelt on the attitude of the 
press with respect both to those proceedings and to Zola 
generally. Various protests arose, and, according to some 

1 See fidouard Founder's <f L'Esprit dana 1'Hiatoire," Paria,1860, p. 229. 


people, it was quite untrue tlxat the English press had ever 
flung mud at Zola or his publisher. The absurdity of that 
contention was made manifest by the publication, at that 
very moment, of several articles in which all the old lies 
and aspersions were repeated. These, it is true, appeared 
mostly in provincial journals; but two or three London 
prints did not hesitate to befoul yet once again the dead 
publisher as well as the recently banqueted novelist, whom 
Gr* W. Story, when recounting the controversy in " The New 
York Tribune," foolishly described as being " the most lewd 
writer in the world." It must be said, to Story's credit, that 
his article was a signed one ; whereas the valiant scribes of 
the British press remained anonymous. They found, un- 
doubtedly, that " anonymity in journalism " had its advan- 
tages, and wisely decided to cling to it. Since that time, 
however, the practice of signing critical articles has spread 
considerably and may some day become the general rule. 




Zola's short stories His early novels His sense of poetry and Ms realism 

Poetry and science The futility of literary dogmas The law of 
change The influence of science on literature Why Zola became a 
novelist His attitude towards life and his fellow-men The Rougon- 
Macquart series The order in which it was published and the order in 
which it should be read " Rougon-Macquart " and "Robert Macair^" 

A survey of the volumes Their human and animal characters- 
0reat variety of their contents How they were prepared Zola's 
alleged ignorance His handwriting His style Some fine pages 
Some blunders Various critical remarks The series as a whole A 
living psychology Some remarks on translations A glance at Zola as 
a playwright. 

IN previous chapters one lias enumerated the many books 
novels, volumes of tales and essays put forth by Zola 
from the time he began to write until he completed the 
Bougon-Macquart series. That completion marks a date in 
his career, and it is now fit one should glance back at the 
work he had accomplished. His minor writings may be 
noticed briefly. His first volume, "Les Contes & Ninon," 
suggests the influence of Victor Hugo largely tempered by 
that of Alfred de Musset, with here and there, too, some 
sign of incipient realism. It is immediately apparent that 
much time and care were spent on the writing of these tales, 
the style of which is often perfect and always charming. 
The companion volume, " Nouveaux Contes k Ninon," pub- 
lished ten years later, is inferior to the earlier one, much 
of the matter contained within its covers being but news- 


piper work. Nevertheless "Les Quatre Jounces de Jean 
Gourdon " Is in its way admirable ; and in " Le Petit Man- 
teau bleu " one recognises the spirit which presided over the 
former tales. Realism is often quite manifest in this second 
volume, and the explanations given in its preface are almost 
superfluous, for one can easily tell that it is the work of 
a man who has passed through the furnace, whereas the 
first volume was all youth, buoyant, aspiring, with wings 

Zola's other tales, those in the volumes entitled <c Le 
Capitaine Burle" and "Nals Micoulin," belong to a later 
date and are very different from the early ones. If the 
influence of the poets appears in them at intervals, it is in 
diction rather than ideas. Even the poetic suggestion lurk- 
ing in the tale " Pour une nuit d'amour," which Poe might 
almost have written, can only be traced with difficulty, for it 
is wrapped in a ghastly realism. The story of " Nantas " is 
perhaps the best of these later little efforts, as it is certainly 
the most powerful ; but " Nais Micoulin " is also one of the 
present writer's favourites, perhaps because, whatever its 
ardour, it does no violence to possibilities. Placed beside 
the tales of Guy de Maupassant, those of Zola, in spite of 
all the naturalism of their details, strike one as being more 
romantic, more imaginative ; and this is as it should be, for 
Zola was largely a child of the sun, whereas Maupassant, 
however passionate his temperament, was always a Norman, 
deficient in the purely imaginative faculty but possessed of 
great shrewdness intuition, so to say, which assisted his 
powers of observation and his superb craftsmanship. Thus 
he excelled in transcribing the human document such as it 
appears to most Northern minds. 


As it is with Zola's short stories so it is with his earlier 
novels; "La Confession de Claude" is a struggle between 
poetry and reality, the presentment of a soul longing for the 
empyrean but forced to surrender to all the horrors of degra- 
dation. The fragmentary * Veen d'une Morte " contains in- 
dications of the same battle continuing. "Les Myst&res 
de Marseilles " is a thing apart ; but, at last, in " Th&rkse 
Raquin " and " Madeleine Frat " realism triumphs brutally 
and in its first victorious hour blackens the canvas to excess. 
Average truth is disregarded as Zola himself admits 
and the agony is piled on to the point of nightmare. This 
is done, perchance, by the realist in Zola in order that 
no loophole may be left for the poet, also within him, to 
rise again. 

But take the Rougon-Macquart series, and there, amid all 
the realism of twenty volumes, a revival of the poetic sense 
will be found displaying itself repeatedly. Remember the 
idyll of Silv&re and Miette, that of Marjolin and Cadine, 
that of Ang^lique and F&icien, that of Serge and Albine, the 
Paradou, H41&ne and Henri, the vistas of Paris from the 
heights of Passy, the love of Goujet for Gervaise, even that 
of Georges Hugon for Nana, the epic march of the miners 
in "Germinal/* the epic charge of the cavalry at Sedan, 
Clotilde's communion with herself while giving suck to her 
babe, and all the other instances. There may be no trace 
of poetry and romance in " Th&&se Raquin," but Zola when 
writing that book must have known full well that he had 
only scotched, not killed, his poetic tendencies. To under- 
stand him aright, let us remember that he made his dgbuts at 
a time when science was enlarging her domain daily. For 
him she exercised a fascination equal to that of art. In his 


youth lie had turned eagerly to certain scientific studies 
even while he was steeping himself in poetiy, and later he 
devoured Mourens, Zimmermann, translations of the great 
scientists of England and Germany. He saw that there was 
often a deep poetry in science ; he dreamt of making it mani- 
fest, of going further, of associating science and art, of 
establishing their co-relation, welding them together even 
in instances when to some folk they seemed to be antag- 
onistic. His nature, as one has remarked previously, was 
a compound, a hybrid one, by no means unique, but such 
as is not often observed. " Lewis Carroll " supplies a some- 
what approximate instance ; in him one found the mathe- 
matician elbowing the romancer, only he did not dream 
of importing " Euclid " into "Alice." Zola, in doing so, or 
rather in doing something similar, was not entirely influ- 
enced by his own special nature, but was carried along by 
the spirit of Ms age, in which everything tended towards 
science. Those who remember Darwin and Faraday and 
Huxley and the others, and the thirst that came on so 
many young men in those days, will not gainsay it 

The literary critics declared, of course, and many of them 
declare still, that Zola was altogether wrong. Regarding 
Art as being so distinct, so different from Science that no 
amalgam could be effected, they laid down and still lay 
down certain rules as being necessary to salvation. That 
attitude was and is preposterous to the open mind which 
holds that no dogmas are of any account, and that of those 
who frame them one may say in Dante's words : 
" Non-ragionam di lor, ma guarda e passa." 

It is true that some critics have asserted that if there be no 
finality in science there is a finality in art. But in fiction, 


with which alone one is concerned here," the form has 
changed repeatedly, and on each such occasion the loud 
protests raised by the representatives of old and recognised 
schools have proved ineffectual. One rule, one dogma after 
another, has been set aside, and still and ever the evolution 
has continued. To say that the artist in fiction must do 
this and must not do that is to expose oneself to the ridi- 
cule, at times, even of one's contemporaries, and certainly of 
posterity. Take a comparatively recent epoch and think 
of the dogmas and the protests brought forward by the 
Classiques in their great contest with the Komantiques in 
France, and remember who, in the end, were vanquished. 
Thus men of conservative views may protest, but if there 
be a good cause for any evolution, which one or another 
writer may essay, it will end by triumphing in spite of all 
the opposition offered to it 

The art of the novelist has been often likened to that 
of the painter, but it does not follow that this is the only 
possible comparison. A novelist may liken himself to a 
sculptor, in fact to anybody he chooses. Nothing, more- 
over, is final The world, as modern scientists have just re- 
discovered, and as Heraclitus asserted three and twenty 
centuries ago, is not a being but a becoming. Change is 
the universal law, even in matter ; and if some minds, im- 
prisoned within narrow ideas and formulas, find it impossible 
to contemplate the possibility of certain changes, they must 
yield to the broader minds for which everything is possible. 
The world's changes are reflected in its literature. Science 
within our own time has profoundly modified the study 
and the writing of history. As for the novel, the Roman- 
ticists spoke no last word, for it was not in their power 


to do so. Whether Zola had arisen or not, it was fatal 
that the novel should at last embrace many things which 
earlier writers of fiction had never dreamt of including in 
it, that it should, in a word, follow the trend of the modern 

Among writers, moreover, there are always many whose 
aim is not mere amusement Some openly declare instruc- 
tion, enlightenment, to be their purpose. Some are only 
half conscious of their mission, some not at all, and it hap- 
pens not unfrequently that a lesson is conveyed in books 
where it has been never intended. At one time the drama 
was the form of literature which appealed most success- 
fully to the greater number. The novel at last acquired 
a similar position, and it followed that the writer who 
wished to reach the greater number had to approach them 
as a novelist. That had been done long before the time 
of Zola, who was both a writer with a purpose and one who 
wished to reach the majority. STow, if an author desire 
to bring about some reformation of the community, it is 
natural that he should begin by portraying it If he wish 
to elucidate certain social, scientific, and psychological prob- 
lems for the common good, it is essential that he should in 
the first case state them. In that event, say some pedants, 
he must confine himself to treatises of the accepted form. 
But the author answers no, for such treatises would not 
reach the greater number, and his purpose would then 
remain unfulfilled. To reach them he must approach them 
in the only literary form for which they care: he must 
embody his views in novels. " I have, in my estimation," 
said Zola, "certain contributions to make to the thought 
of the world on certain subjects, and I have chosen the 


novel as the best means of communication. To tell me 
that I must not do so is nonsense. I claim it as my right, 
and who are you to gainsay it?" 

But let us pass to another point The oft-repeated asser- 
tion that Zola confined himself to portraying the ulcers 
and sores of life is contrary to fact He undoubtedly found 
more evil than good in the community, and he insisted on 
the evil because it was that which needed remedying. But 
he blamed nobody for extolling the higher side of life. He 
denounced the writers who cast a deceptive and often 
poisonous glamour over the imperfections of the world, he 
railed at many of the people who pretended to be very 
good, for he was not deceived by hypocrisy and cant ; but, 
at the same time, he never held that mankind was naturally 
evil. He attributed its blemishes to its social systems, its 
superstitions, the thousand fallacies amid which it was 
reared, and his whole life was a battle with those fallacies, 
those superstitions, and those systems. 

As he contended against so many generally accepted 
opinions it was inevitable that his work and even his pur- 
pose should be greatly misjudged. Critics took in turn one 
and another volume of his Rougon-Macquart series, and pro- 
nounced condemnation on it It was only when, after long 
years, the series was at last finished that some little justice 
was shown to the author. It should be remembered that 
no volume of the series is in itself a really complete work. 
The series indeed is the book, the volumes are but chapters 
of it. Besides, they ought not to be taken nowadays 
in the order in which they were originally published. It 
occasionally happens that writers are unable to produce 
their works in proper sequence. There have been instances 


when the second and fourth volumes of some literary under- 
taking have been published before the first and the third. 
So it was with the Kougon-Macquart novels. Zola was no 
walking encyclopaedia. Every now and again it happened 
that he was not ready for the volume which by rights 
should have followed the one he had just finished. He 
lacked, at the moment, sufficient knowledge of the subject 
which that next volume was to embrace. Or else, as also 
happened at times, his fancy or his feelings or some combi- 
nation of circumstances carried him onward, inducing him 
to skip a volume for a time. But he always reverted to it 
afterwards, like an author who, writing not twenty volumes, 
but one, has passed over some troublesome chapter, yet 
harks back and writes it at last, well knowing that his work 
will lack completeness and intelligibility if the gap be not 
filled up. 

In the chronicle of Zola's career given in our previous 
chapters, the Bougon-Macquart volumes have "been men- 
tioned in their chronological order ; but the example of the 
critics who, even since the completion of the series, have 
followed that same order in judging Zola's work is not one 
to imitate. By adopting that system one may certainly 
trace the variations in Zola's general style over a term of 
years ; but if the series is to be judged as a whole one must 
take its sections in the order in which the author himself 
desired they should be read. This he indicated in "Le 
Docteur Pascal/' and confirmed by word of mouth to the 
present writer; and it is unfortunate, perhaps, that the 
French publishers should still " list * the volumes chrono- 
logically, thereby leading many readers astray. Some vol- 
umes of course notably the first and the last occupy 


their proper places in the lists, but others have to be taken 
in a very different order. 

Before passing the series in review one may say a few 
words respecting the two names, Rougon and Macquart, 
which, linked together, have supplied it with a general 
title. Some years ago those names were noticed by the 
present writer in sundry old documents relating to an 
abbey in Champagne, but Zola declared them to be com- 
mon names in Provence. As for Macquart long famil- 
iar to Parisians in connection with the knacker's trade 
it is a suggestive circumstance that in Zola's younger 
days there was a bookseller at Aix, named Makaire, 
whom he may well have known. Makaire, of course is 
merely a variant of Macaire; and it is not necessary to 
be familiar with the famous " Auberge des Adrets, M and the 
wonderful impersonation of Frdrick Lemaitre, to know 
that "Robert Macaire" is regarded by the French as a type 
of braggart rascal, as cynical, as impudent as "Tartuffe" is 
hypocritical and sneakish. Zola, then, in the writer's 
opinion, adopted that vulgar name Macquart because it 
resembled Macaire, and put Eougon before it in lieu of 
Robert. He pictured the Rougon-Macquarts as the Robert- 
Macaires of the Second Empire, and the idea came to 
him, perhaps, the more readily as Napoleon III. had been 
repeatedly caricatured as Robert Macaire, a brazen knave 
repeating abracadalrant axioms amid the applause of his 
followers. Thus the title of the Rougon-Macq[uarts, if taken 
as synonymous with the Robert-Macaires, will suffice to 
explain a good deal of Zola's series. 

Let us now glance at the volumes. In " La Fortune des 
Rougon " (I) the author describes the origin of the Rougons 


and the Macqiiarts. One Adelaide Fouque, a woman of 
hysterical nature who eventually goes mad, a variety 
of disorders being transmitted to most of her descendants, 
marries a man named Eougon, and on his death lives with 
another named Macquart. By the former she has a son, 
Pierre Eougon ; "by the latter a son, Antoine, and a daughter, 
TJrsule Macquart This daughter marries a hatter named 
Motiret, and thus at the outset of the series the second 
generation of the family is shown divided into three 
"branches* In the third generation it increases to eleven 
members ; In the fourth to thirteen. In the fifth it dwindles, 
Its vitiated energies now being largely spent ; and though, 
there are indications of its continuance in sundry children 
who do not appear on the scene, the hope o? regeneration 
rests virtually in only one child, a boy three months old 
when the curtain finally descends. In " La Fortune des 
Eougon," then, we are shown old Adelaide Fouque, her chil- 
dren and some of theirs, all more or less poverty-stricken 
and striving for wealth, which comes with the foundation 
of the Second Empire. The scene is laid at Plassans 
Aix, as was formerly explained and one sees the Imperial 
rSffime established there by craft and bloodshed. 

Next comes "Son Excellence Eugfene Eougon" (II) 
which carries one to Paris, where the fortunes of the eldest 
of the Eougon brothers, first an advocate and at last an 
all-powerful minister of state, are followed in official and 
political circles. The court of Napoleon III appears at the 
Tuileries and at Compfegne, where one meets, among others, 
a beautiful Italian adventuress, Clorinde Balbi suggestive 
of the notorious Countess de Castiglione with a mother 
reminiscent of Madame de Montijo. And in other chapters 


of the volume the scheming and plotting of the reign, the 
official jobbery and corruption, are traced for several years. 

"La Curfe" (III) follows, and one turns to Eugene 
Rougon's younger brother, Aristide, who has assumed the 
pseudonym of Saecard. With him the reader joins in the 
great rush for the spoils of the new regime. A passion for 
money and enjoyment seizes on one and all, debauchery 
reigns in society, and a fever of reckless speculation is 
kindled by the transformation of Paris under Baron Hauss- 
mann and his acolytes. Men and women sell themselves. 
Ren^e, Saceard's second wife, passes from mere adultery to 
incest, becoming a modern Phaedra, while Saccard himself 
leads the life of an eager, gluttonous bird of prey, which he 
continues in the ensuing volume, " L'Argent " (IV), where 
the Bourse the money-market is shown with all its 
gambling, its thousand tricks and frauds. 

So far the series might seem a mere record of roguery, 
vice, and corruption, but those who know the books are 
aware that such is not the case. Silvfcre and Miette stand 
for love and all the better qualities of humanity in the first 
volume; there are at least the Martinets and the Berauds 
in the second and third ; and the devoted Madame Caroline, 
the honest Hamelin, the pious Princess d'Orviedo, the 
dreamy, generous-hearted Sigismond, the loving Jordans, 
and the unfortunate Mazaud, all figure in the fourth, amid 
the scramble for gold in which the other characters 

In sharp contrast with that greed for gain is the picture 
offered by the next volume, "Le Rve" (V), where an im- 
maculate lily arises from the hot-bed of vice, whence later, 
and as a further contrast, a type of foul shamelessness, 

Photo by femiie Zola 

Denise and Jacques 


Nana, the harlot, is also to spring. But it is best not to 
anticipate- In the first four volumes the Kougons, under 
the influence of heredity and surroundings, have shown 
themselves scoundrels, whereas in Ang41ique, the heroine of 
* Le Kve," a girl of their blood appears who is all purity 
and candour. She comes upon the scene, precisely at this 
moment, to emphasise the author's conviction that, whatever 
he may have had to depict in his solicitude for truth, all 
is not vice, degradation, and materialism, that there are other 
aspirations in life besides the thirst for wealth, enjoyment 
and power. And here, too, the priesthood is shown in its 
better aspect: the good Abb4 Cornille, the proud, heart- 
broken Bishop d'Hautecoeur, in contrast with whom the 
scheming, unscrupulous Abb Faujas appears in the next 
section of the series. 

This is "La Conqute de Plassans" (VI) which retains 
one in the provinces (whither one is carried from Paris 
in " Le Bve "), and one is confronted by a carefully painted 
picture of middle-class society in a small town, this in its 
turn contrasting with the previous pictures of life in Paris. 
And now the baleful results which may attend marriages 
between cousins are exemplified. Marthe Eougon has 
married Frangois Mouret, and both have inherited lesions 
from their common ancestress, Adelaide Fouque. One of 
their children, Dsire, physically strong and healthy, is 
mentally an " innocent " ; and they themselves are unhinged, 
the workings of their heredity being accentuated and 
hastened by the wiles of Faujas, the priest, who gains 
access to their home. He is a secret agent of the imperial 
government, and thus one again sees the Empire at work in 
the provinces, utilising the clergy to enforce its authority, 



and as often as not betrayed by it IE the end all collapses. 
The maddened Mouret sets fire to his home and perishes 
in the flames with AbW Faiijas, while Marfche dies of a 
disorder springing from her inherited hysteria. 

Then, the middle class of the provinces having been 
sketched, that of the metropolis is depicted with an unspar- 
ing hand. The career of the Mourets' eldest son, Octave, is 
followed, first through the pages of " Pot-Bouille " (VII), in 
which he appears as a kind of modern Don Juan, a Don 
Juan stripped of all poetry, all glamour, a sensualist of our 
great cities, the man who prowls, not among the unhappy 
creatures of the streets, but among the women of outward 
respectability who may help him to acquire position and 
fortune. The scene is laid in a house of the Rue de 
Ghoiseul, in the centre of Paris; and all around Octave 
gravitate depraved, venal, egotistical, and sickly beings, 
adulterous households, unscrupulous match-making mothers, 
dmi-werge$ who will only marry for money, dowry hunters, 
slatternly servant girls, and that type of the middle-class 
debauchee who makes those girls his prey. And the pleas- 
ing figures in the work are few poor old Josserand, for 
instance, and the charming Madame H^douin, with the 
prosperous author on the first floor, who drives in his car- 
riage and has two handsome children. At the same time 
the book pours a stream of light first on all the ignoble 
shifts to which middle-class folk of small means are put in 
their insane endeavours to ape their wealthier neighbours, 
and secondly on the evils that arise from that dowry system 
which superficial people regard as proving the foresight and 
wisdom of the French when they embark on the sea of 
matrimony. As a matter of fact, it frequently happens 


that this dowry system entirely blights married life. As 
often as not the dowry itself is a mere snare and delusion 
the bride's parents retaining the principal, and merely 
serving the interest until their death, when, as in the case 
of Zola's old Vabre, the parental fortune may have entirely 
disappeared ! 

In "Au Bonheur des Dames" (VIII) Octave Mourefe 
appears again, a sensualist still but also a man of enter- 
prise, at the head of a a Grand Magasin de Nouveaut^s," a 
Temple of Temptation, which revolutionises trade and pan- 
ders to the feminine love of finery. Here the bourgeoisie IB 
shown elbowing the class immediately below it, a world of 
employes, clerks, shopmen and shop-girls, whose lives, like- 
wise, are full of evil. But again a girl of admirable recti- 
tude, Denise Baudu, comes forward to illumine the novelist's 
pages, and redeem and ennoble the man who has hitherto 
regarded her sex as an instrument or a toy. 

When Zola has cast Octave Mouret at the feet of Denise, 
thereby exemplifying a pure woman's influence over man, 
he again transfers his scene from bustling Paris to a lonely 
region of the southern provinces, there to follow the career 
of Octave's brother, Serge. In "La Faute de I'AtiW Mouret" 
(IX) the battle is again one between woman, love, and 
man; but a new factor appears religion for Serge is 
a priest, bound by the unnatural vow of his calling, one of 
hysterical, mystical temperament also, enslaved by the 
superstitions of his creed. In his tumble-down parsonage 
and his little, decaying, forsaken church, amid a semi-savage, 
brutish peasantry, he long strives to resist the cry of nature. 
But she at last asserts her might, and the novelist carries 
the reader into the enchanted garden of the Paradou, where 


love reigns supreme. Yet the golden hours are brief : the 
priest is recalled to his religion of death, and he cannot 
resist the call, for all the training of years which has con- 
firmed and increased his mystical tendency comes back, 
and he is helpless. Thus the natural life is forsaken for 
the illusions and dogmas of a creed; and Albine, whom 
Serge has loved, is left forlorn with her unborn babe, to lie 
down and die amid the perfume of the flowers with which 
she has strewn her bed. Serge it is who casts the symboli- 
cal pinch of earth upon her coffin, for he has resumed his 
ministry among the brutish peasants, dedicating all his 
efforts to slay the sex given him by his God, for instead of 
living as a man he must obey the command of his Church 
and live as an eunuch. 

After that battle with nature and love, there comes a 
companion picture: the fall of Hfldne Mouret in "Une 
Page d* Amour n (X)< She has hitherto led an absolutely 
blameless life, but a sudden passion sweeps her off her feet* 
A tragic sombreness attends the episode. No glamour is 
cast over woman's frailty in Zola's pages. If H13ne tastes 
an hour of intoxication she is punished for it as frightfully 
as any moralist could desire. Jeanne, her fondly loved 
daughter, who is devoured by jealous hysteria, dies as the 
result of her lapse ; and it is only afterwards, in pity as it 
were, that H^lfene is granted the chance of beginning her 
life afresh. 

Then the series continues. All the Rougons excepting 
one, Pascal, whom the novelist keeps back till the end 
have now been dealt with, the Mourets also, and the chronicle 
of the bastard Macquart branch begins. Antoine Macquart 
has three children, Lisa, Gervaise, and Jean, and it is Lisa 


who supplies the next volume of the series, * Le Yentre da 
Paris'* (XI), which carries one through and around the 
great markets of the French metropolis, as well as into the 
fine pork-butcher's shop, which Lisa keeps with her hus- 
hand, Quenu. This is a volume redolent of victuals cer- 
tainly, marked also by the egotism of the shopkeeping 
and petty trading classes, with yet a glimpse of one of 
those conspiracies which were frequent in the time of 
Napoleon III, and a backward glance at the coup d'etat by 
which that sovereign had risen to power. The chief figure 
in the story is Quenu's brother, the unhappy Florent, who 
has escaped from Cayenne, and whom lisa, that comfortable 
egotist, ends by betraying to the authorities. For that ultra- 
righteous deed, counselled by Lisa's confessor, and for 
the savagery of all the fat fishwives, one is consoled by 
the presence of honest Madame Frangois and of Cadine, the 
little flower-girl, and Marjolin, her youthful lover, whose 
smile brightens many a page. 

Then, in " La Joie de Vivre " (XII), comes Pauline, whose 
nature is so different from that of her mother, Lisa. She 
has no egotism in her composition; she would never betray 
anybody ; she is all human devotion and self-sacrifice. With 
her we are carried to the seashore, to a little fisher hamlet, 
where her guardian Chanteau dwells ; and he, his wife, and 
his son prey upon her, wrecking her life, though she remains 
brave and smiling till the end. And how little joy there 
may be in life is shown not only by her case, but by that of 
the crippled Chanteau, his embittered, covetous, suspicious 
wife, his jealous servant, and his weak-minded son, who 
tries to be this and that, but succeeds in nothing and is 
consumed by a foolish, unreasoning dread of death. It is to 


these that Pauline has to minister, for these that she has to 
sacrifice herself, even as it often happens that the good 
have to lay down their lives for the unworthy. 

Pauline, one has said, is very different from her mother, 
Lisa. Equally different is Lisa's sister, Gervaise, the pa- 
thetic heroine of " L'Assommoir " (XIII), with which the 
family chronicle is continued. Lisa rises, Gervaise falls; 
so does it happen in many of the world's families. Zola has 
now descended through several strata of society, and has 
come to the working classes. A deep pathos lies beneath 
the picture he traces of them under the bane of drink. At 
first Gervaise appears so courageous amid her misfortunes 
that one can readily grant her the compassionate sympathy 
accorded to every trusting woman whom a coward abandons. 
There seems hope for her at the outset of her marriage with 
Goupeau; a possibility, too, that she may prove successful 
when, industrious and energetic, she starts her little laundry 
business. But her husband's lazy, drunken ways recoil on 
her, the return of the rascally Lantier completes her mis- 
fortune, and then she rolls down hill, to die at last of 
starvation. The stage of " L'Assommoir " is crowded with 
typical figures, some of them perchance imperishable, for 
their names have passed into the French language to serve 
as designations for one and another degraded character that 
one encounters in every-day life. Yet all the personages of 
Zola's work are not depraved. Even in this dark book 
there are a few who point to the brighter side of human 
nature, honest Goujet, for instance, and Lalie, the poor, 
pitiful "little mother." Gervaise and Coupeau themselves 
are not wholly vile. In the midst of their degradation, 
when she prowls the boulevard in the snow, when he is 


dancing madly in his padded cell, one instinctively retraces 
their careers hack to the early days when hoth had looked 
so hopefully on life ; and one recognises that a fatal environ- 
ment, more than natural worthlessness, has heen the great 
cause of their downfall. 

Nana already appears in her childhood and her youth 
in the pages of " L' Assommoir," hut Zola does not pass 
direct from that work to the later career of Gervaise's 
daughter. He first takes Gervaise's elder children, her sons 
by Lantier ; and " L'CEuvre " (XIV) unfolds the painful story 
of Claude, the painter, a glimpse of whom has been given 
previously in " Le Ventre de Paris." Again in " L'CEuvre," 
one finds a record of downfall, but, whereas in " L* Assom- 
moir " it has largely resulted from environment and circum- 
stances, it now proceeds more directly from an evil heredity. 
Claude stands virtually on the border line that parts insanity 
from genius, and thus in his career, the old hypotheses of 
Moreau of Tours, and those subsequently enunciated in 
England by Nesbit, might find play. In the end, after a 
life of conflict and misery, insanity triumphs and Claude 
destroys himself. His tale, as one has stated previously, 
is linked with a picture of the French art-world Fortu- 
nately a current of human interest flows through the book, 
for beside Claude the unhappy Christine, his wife, appears : 
she, like Gervaise, at first being a good, true, and courageous 
woman, one who commits the irremediable mistake of link- 
ing her life with that of a man fated to failure and insanity. 

In these last sections of Zola's series the march of de- 
generescence is hastened ; downfall follows downfall ; before 
long that of individuals is to be succeeded by a supreme 
collapse, that of the regime under which they live. Thus, 


after "L'OEuvre," comes "La Bte Humaine" (XV), Claude's 
brother Jacques, an engine-driver, in whom a murderer 
appears among the Kougon-Macquarts. The hereditary 
virus, transmitted from Adelaide Fouque, has turned in him 
to an insensate craving for woman's blood, and, frankly, his 
story is horrible. At the same time, while one follows the 
growth of his abominable disease, many a vivid page arrests 
attention: awful, yet a masterpiece of colloquial narrative 
and full of a penetrating psychology, is Severine's account 
of the murder of President Grandmorin; very human is 
Jacques' love for his engine, La Lison ; and striking are the 
pictures of the snowstorm, the railway accident, and the 
death of Jacques and the stoker Pecqueux, at the end of 
the volume, when their train, crowded with soldiers, is 
seen rushing driverless, like some great, maddened, blind 
beast, towards catastrophe and annihilation. 

Next the story of Gervaise'a third son, fitienne, is unfolded 
in " Germinal " (XVI), this again a tale of the workers, the 
hardships, the misery, the degradation of the sweated toilers 
of the coal-pits, who are maddened by want to revolt. And 
then, of course, they are shot down by the soldiers at the 
disposal of the capitalists who batten on the sufferings of 
labour. A tribute of compassion, a call for justice, a cry 
of warning to the rich and powerful such, as Zola himself 
said, is " Germinal. 1 ' Those who wonder at the hatred of 
the workers for those above them, at the spread of socialism 
throughout France, need merely read his pages to under- 
stand why and how such things have come to pass. 

But "Nana " (XVII) now confronts the reader. He has 
just passed through the world of labour : drunkenness, degra- 
dation, insanity, crime, revolution have been indicated sue- 


cessively as resultants of the condition of the masses ; and 
here comes another product of an evil social system, the 
low-born harlot who, like an unconscious instrument of 
retribution, ascends from her native dung-heap to poison 
the bourgeoisie and aristocracy the rulers, the law-givers, 
to whom the existence of that dung-heap and its evil 
ferments is due. In "Nana" depravity coruscates. Here 
is the so-called " life of pleasure " of the world's great cities, 
the life of indulgence which recruits its votaries among all 
the aristocracies, all the plutocracies, all the bourgeoisies, 
all the bohemias. To some, Nana may seem to be " a scourge 
of God " assuredly the world's Nanas have wrought more 
evil than its Attilas " a punishment on men for their lewd 
and lawless sensuality," In Zola's pages one does not wit- 
ness merely the ruin and disgrace of the professedly profli- 
gate ; one sees also how natural, youthful desire when exposed 
to temptation may ripen into depravity and end in misery. 
One sees, again, the reflex action of libertinism on married 
life how wives end at times by following the example of 
their husbands, and even " bettering the instruction." l From 
first to last this much-maligned book is a stupendous warn- 
ing for both sexes, as great a denunciation of the social evil 
as ever was penned. 

But the scene changes, and in "La Terre" (XVIII) appears 
Jean Macquart, soldier and artisan, who becomes a peasant 
He, though a brother of Gervaise, has escaped the hereditary 
taint, is strong, sensible, hardworking, a man destined, one 
might think, to a life of useful and happy obscurity. But 
fate casts him among the Fouans, a family of untutored 

1 See a clever study of "Nana," by H. Schutz- Wilson in the " New Cen- 
tury Review," Vol. V, No. 26, February, 1899. 


peasants, barely raised above animality; and a drama of 
savage greed and egotism is unfolded around him. Old 
Fouan, being no longer able to till his fields himself, divides 
his property among his children, who agree to make him 
an allowance. But he is cheated, ill-treated, robbed of his 
savings by them, and finally murdered by one of his sons. 
That same son, Buteau, is consumed by a ravenous earth- 
hunger, but animal desire is also strong within him. He is 
both enamoured and jealous of his wife's sister, Frangoise, 
who is Jean Macquart's wife, his passion for her being 
blended with a craving to appropriate her land. At last 
she, by violence, becomes his victim, and in a struggle with 
her sister, who is present, is thrown upon a scythe and 
mortally injured. That crime is witnessed by old Fouan, 
and it is for fear lest he should reveal it that he is stifled 
then, burnt. 

From " La Terre " Jean Macquart passes to " La D^Mcle n 
(XIX), for the time has now come for the great smash-up 
of that Empire all tinsel without and all rottenness within. 
War and invasion descend upon France. You follow the 
retreating soldiers from the Rhine to the Meuse, on that 
terrible, woeful march to Sedan, where all becomes disaster. 
You see the wretched Emperor borne along in the baggage 
train of his army, carried, it was thought, to certain death 
in the hope that France might then forgive, and allow his 
son to reign. And you see him under fire, vainly courting 
death, which will not take him. Then the horrors of 
Bazeilles, the struggle for the Calvary, the great charge, the 
hoisting of the white flag, the truce, and the abject surrender 
follow in swift succession. Next comes the battlefield after 
the slaughter, with the dreadful Camp of Misery, and later, 


the efforts of the National Defence, the peace imposed 
on the vanquished, and then the Commune's horrors crown- 
ing all. But from first to last human interest is never 
absent : one finds it in the friendship of Jean for the unlucky 
and degenerate Maurice, in the story of Silvine and Prosper, 
in the bravery of Weiss, the heroism of Henriette, Jean's 
love for her, and the hope that both, hereafter, may be able 
to begin life afresh and together, a hope which is blasted by 
the fatality of civil war, when brother rushes on brother 
and blindly slays him. 

At last comes "Le Docteur Pascal" (XX), the zealous 
scientist who sits in judgment on his family. You see him 
among his documents, sifting evidence, explaining the 
heredity of one and another relative, expounding the whole 
theory of atavism which underlies Zola's series. The old 
ancestress, Adelaide Fouque, is still alive, a centenarian, 
mad, confined for many years in a lunatic asylum. Her 
son, Antoine Macquart, also survives, still an unscrupulous 
knave and a confirmed drunkard, until spontaneous com- 
bustion destroys him, while hemorrhage carries off little 
Charles, the last delicate, degenerate scion of the exhausted 
stock. Pascal himself would seem to have escaped the 
hereditary taint; but after a long life of celibacy, spent 
in the study and practice of medicinei his passions awaken, 
and he falls in love with Clotilde, his niece. He strives 
to overcome that passion, he wishes to marry the girl to his 
friend Ramond, but she will not have it so, and in her turn 
becomes a temptress. Then the impetuous blood of the 
Rougons masters them both, and they fall into each other's 
arms. Previously, old Madame FLicitd, Pascal's mother, 
has tried to use Glotilde as an instrument to effect the 


destruction of the documents which the doctor has collected, 
for the family would be dishonoured should they ever see 
the light The girl has also tried to convert Pascal to her 
own religious views ; but all in vain. A period of delirious 
folly ensues, Pascal turns prodigal in his old age, and is at 
last brought to ruin by a dishonest notary. Then Olotilde 
and he have to part, and he dies, struck down by heart 
disease. The young woman survives with a child, his son 
and hers, who, perhaps, may yet rejuvenate the dwindling 
race. And we see her nursing her babe and indulging in a 
thousand hopes, as the curtain at last descends on the his- 
tory of the Rougon-Macquarts. 1 

Such, then, is Zola's great series : one work in twenty 
volumes, in whose pages appear twelve hundred human 

1 In our summary of the novels we have left the scientific questions on 
one side. It would "be impossible to deal with them adequately here, and 
those who are curious on the subject must consult "Le Docteur Pascal," 
from which we venture to quote just one paragraph, which indicates Zola's 
views in a general way ; ** We see that human creatures may appear radically 
different one from another, though they merely typify so many logical modi- 
fications of their common ancestors. The trunk explains the branches, and 
the branches explain the leaves. Although Saccard and Eugene Rougon 
differ so much in temperament and mode of life, the same impulsion pro- 
duced the former's ravenous appetites and the latter's sovereign ambition. 
Angelique, a spotless lily, came from an equivocal creature like Sidonie, for 
the same influence determines either mysticism or sexual passion according to 
environment. In the case of Mouret's children the inspiration makes an 
intelligent man like Octave a millionaire dealer in finery, causes Serge, a 
believer, to become a poor priest, while De'siree, a witless creature, develops 
into a physically handsome and happy girl. . . . But the neurosis passes to 
Gervaise's children, and ETana sells herself, iStienne rebels, Jacques murders, 
and Claude is endowed with a measure of genius ; while Pauline, their cousin- 
german, becomes a personification of victorious rectitude, a battling and self- 
sacrificing woman. That is heredity, life itself, which produces imbeciles, 
madmen, criminals, and great men. Certain cells collapse, others take their 
place, and a rascal or a raving lunatic appears instead of a genius or a mere 
honest man. And meantime mankind continues rolling onward, carrying all 
along with it." 


characters besides many others, such as La Lison, the 
engine which Jacques Lantier worships and which seems 
to be endowed with life; such, too, as old Bonhomme, 
Pascal's horse; Bataille and Trompette, the horses of the 
coal-pit ; Zephyr, who falls in the great cavalry charge at 
Sedan ; Mathieu and Bertrand, the two big dogs ; Pologne, 
the unlucky rabbit ; Minouche, the egotistical cat ; G&l6on, 
the comical donkey who gets drunk in the vintage scene of 
* La Terre" ; C^sar, the great bull at La Borderie; La Coliche 
and her calves ; Mathieu, D^sirde's pig ; Alexandre, her big 
lusty rooster, and a score of others. Zola always loved 
animals ; he put them into his books, and they entered 
largely into his life. As for the human characters of his 
great series these are of all classes, all kinds. Napoleon 
III appears in various volumes, at the Tuileries, at Com- 
pifegne, at St. Cloud, and again and again during the war of 
1870. The Empress is seen also, like the Duke de Morny 
and other high personages of state. Members of one and 
another aristocracy, politicians and functionaries, judges and 
lawyers, medical men and other scientists, bishops and priests, 
generals and soldiers, company promoters, speculators and 
shareholders, schoolmasters and revolutionaries, lourgeois 
of Paris and the provinces, artists and shopkeepers, street 
hawkers, peasants and miners, workmen of innumerable 
callings, pass across Zola's stage. The reader enters the 
homes of all those classes ; he goes from the palace to the 
hovel, from the dancing-hall to the coal-pit, from the cathe- 
dral to the boozing-ken, from the artist's studio to the Cham- 
ber of Deputies, from the great drapery shop to the harlot's 
boudoir ; he sees Paris, her boulevards, her slums, her prome- 
nades, her theatres, her quays, under twenty different aspects, 


at dawn, at noon, at night, in shine and rain and snow ; he 
travels to the rocky shore of a "boisterous and predatory sea ; 
he finds fairyland in the magic garden of the Paradou ; he 
roams the bleak coal country of the north ; he is buffeted by 
the mistral and scorched by the blazing sun of Provence ; he 
gazes on La Beauce, an ocean of waving corn, and on the 
battlefield of Sedan, strewn with the dead and dying. Re- 
ligion, politics, sociology, art, science, trade, agriculture, 
military affairs, life's characteristics, duties, functions, errors 
and aims, love, marriage, eating, drinking, and a hundred 
other matters are discussed before him. Beautiful friend- 
ships, confiding loves, ardent passions, terrible jealousies and 
rivalries, lofty aspirations, horrid lusts, generous sacrifices, 
deeds of bravery and virtue, cruelty and vengeance, greed, 
craft, and cowardice, in a word, both the nobility and the 
mire of life in turn confront one, in such wise that this 
Rougon-Macquart series is like a miniature world. 

It has been previously shown that Zola began to study 
and plan the series in the middle of 1868, and commenced 
his first volume in May, 1869. For some seven or eight 
months, during the war of 1870-1871, he had been obliged 
to set his work aside, but apart from that break it had occu- 
pied the greater part of his attention during all the years 
that elapsed until Le Docteur Pascal " appeared in 1893. 
Every year, as a rule, some months were occupied in fram- 
ing a new volume, then several were given to the actual 
writing of it. In the first instance it was usually necessary 
to visit places and people ; and in some cases certain branches 
of the chosen subject had to be studied in books, chiefly of a 
technical nature. This brings one to the consideration of 
a legend which has grown up around Zola and much of his 


work. It has been assumed, and repeated ad nauseam, by 
some critics, that he was a very ignorant man with little or 
no real experience of life, one who, aided by a little imagi- 
nation, concocted his books out of others,, basing his narra- 
tives entirely on printed documents. But that assumption 
is fallacious. It was helped on, certainly, by some of Zola's 
friends, notably by Paul Alexis, who in his account of the 
earlier Eougon-Macquart volumes expatiated at length on 
some of the novelist's sources of information. 1 This Alexis 
did with Zola's sanction, in a spirit of literary honesty, but 
his insistence on the subject perverted the judgment of 
several critics, in such wise that Zola has been largely de- 
scribed as a writer who acquired his information merely by 
cramming. That such a view of the man and his work is 
erroneous may be easily shown. 

He certainly had to study certain subjects in books, and 
rely, occasionally, on information given him by friends, but 
few writers ever put more actual experience and personal 
knowledge into their works. Even his original acquaint- 
ance with " society " was more considerable than some 
have admitted. In Michelet's drawing-room, which was 
the first he frequented, he met, it is true, only serious 
men, while Flaubert's was but a superlative Bohemia ; but 
in Madame Meurice's salon, to which, whatever his poverty, 
he had his entrde during the last years of the Empire, he 
found not only republicanism and literary culture, but many 
of the graces of life, a high standard of comfort if not lux- 
ury, charming women who added a touch of pleasant frivol- 

1 The writer must plead guilty to having unintentionally assisted tlie 
growth of the legend by insisting often unduly on some of Zola's " quellen," 
m his introductions to the English translations of the novelist's books. 


ity to the serious talk of the older men, and young fellows 
in good circumstances, whose minds were more intent on 
amusement than politics or literature or art. After the Em- 
pire his favourite salon became for a time that of Madame 
Charpentier, a lady of culture, whose circle of acquaintance 
extended far beyond literary men and their wives. Among 
the former, be it noted, were academicians, but there were 
also statesmen, Gambetta, Jules Ferry, and numerous 
others, with many people who, in one way or another, repre- 
sented the new Republican society. Another drawing-room 
of high standing in Republican Paris which Zola frequented, 
was that of Madame Menard-Dorian. 

Besides, his experiences during the Franco-German war, 
when he became secretary to Glais-Bizoin, his participa- 
tion in newspaper life, his position as parliamentary cor- 
respondent to " La Cloche," as general Paris correspondent 
of "Le Semaphore" of Marseilles, made him acquainted 
with scores of people, instructed him in a hundred dif- 
ferent ways. Further, his dramatic efforts brought him 
in contact with the stage; his artistic friendships carried 
him among painters, sculptors, and their critics ; his inter- 
course with the Goncourts led him occasionally into pecu- 
liar company, like that of Nina de Villars, and other 
semi-literary women of questionable repute; the dinner 
parties with the Goncourts, Flaubert, and Daudet took 
him to restaurants and cafds where he elbowed the flash 
set; and we know also that the circumstances of his early 
manhood had brought him in touch with the poor. Finally, 
it is obvious that his actual experience of the emotions was 
large : he had known sorrow in many forms ; the pangs that 
come from defeat and contumely, the gloom which hope de- 


ferred casts over the spirit, followed by the delight which 
arises at an unexpected success. No doubt, when he first 
planned "Les Eougon Macquart," in 1868, he was still very 
imperfectly equipped for his selected task ; and the fact 
that he should have attempted it under such circumstances 
shows that he possessed more than the usual amount of con- 
fidence that a young man usually places in his powers. But 
his experiences during the next four or five years altered 
everything, for they greatly increased his equipment and 
rendered the successful prosecution of his task a possibility. 
Each time he turned to a fresh volume of his series he 
began by preparing an gbauche, or as he generally preferred 
to say in his letters, a maquette> that is a rough model of the 
intended work. The Eougon or the Macquart who was to 
figure most prominently in it had been previously chosen ; 
he knew what was to be that character's environment, and 
the philosophical idea which was to govern the volume. 
Taking his pen in hand, he now pictured such secondary 
characters as the proposed milieu suggested, and set down 
such facts and incidents as might logically ensue from the 
chosen characters and their surroundings. Briefly, in a 
broad and somewhat vague way, he built up a subject 
Those general notes having been placed in a portfolio by 
themselves he next took his characters in hand, one by one, 
noting their respective histories, ages, health, physical ap- 
pearance and nature, disposition, habits, and associations. 
That work having been completed was placed in a second 
portfolio, and Zola next passed to the question of environ- 
ment, collecting a variety of information respecting the 
different localities where the scenes of his narrative were 
to be laid. Next he started an inquiry into the professions 



or trades of his characters, and such other technical mat- 
ters as might be useful to him, and his notes on those sub- 
jects were also gathered together in portfolios. They were 
often based on personal observation, but naturally enough 
Zola consulted technical works and friends whom he knew 
to be well informed on certain points. Their letters and 
quotations from the books he had consulted were added to 
his personal memoranda. 

By the time all this was done his materials were often in 
excess of what he required. Nevertheless he based himself 
upon them in planning his book. He decided on the num- 
ber of chapters the volume should contain, and distributed 
the materials among them. This entailed much minute 
labour. For instance, he took his first rough draft of his 
subject, and distributed the principal incidents mentioned 
in it among the proposed chapters ; then he took his notes 
on his characters and apportioned them in a similar man- 
ner ; in one chapter, for instance, the appearance of some 
individual must be described; in another some particular 
characteristic must be brought to the front ; in yet another 
the changes effected in the same personage by environment 
or other causes must be dealt with. Thus borrowing notes 
from one and another of his first portfolios, and distributing 
them as the narrative and its situations might suggest, Zola 
gradually planned his chapters from the first to the last. 

All this was still rough work, and before committing a 
chapter to paper, Zola re-examined his materials, set them 
in what seemed the best order, both with respect to what 
he might have said in previous chapters and with respect to 
the effect he desired to produce in the new one. Now and 
again he would find some note superfluous, and reject it 


altogether; at other times he might transfer it to a sub- 
sequent chapter, where the fact, incident, problem, or theory 
it enunciated would have a more logical place. Moreover, 
while he was writing, it occasionally occurred to him that 
some incident he was describing, or some remark he attrib- 
uted to one of his characters, would have a certain effect 
farther on ; and thereupon he at once made a note of the 
circumstance, and, his chapter finished, transferred all such 
notes to their proper places. t It will be seen/' says Alexis, 
from whom these particulars have been borrowed, 1 "that 
this method of proceeding from the general to the special 
is complicated, but logical and safe. A friend of Zola's 
(M. Bruneau ?) told me that it reminded him of Wagner's 
learned and novel orchestration. I do not know how far 
that comparison may be accurate; but it is certain that 
Zola's works, when read for the first time by the profane, 
must have a little of the disconcerting effect of the Wag- 
nerian operas. The first impression is one of great confti- 
sion ; the reader is on the point of exclaiming that there is 
no sign of composition or rule ; but on penetrating to the 
structure of the work you find that everything is mathe- 
matical; you discover a deep science, and recognise that 
the outcome is really the result of prolonged labour fraught 
with strenuous patience and determination." 

Edmondo de Amicis, in an appreciation of Zola, included 
in his " Eecollections of Paris," mentions that the novelist 
showed him a number of notes he had prepared for " L'As- 
sommoir," and as Amicis's account of them throws light on 
Zola's methods of work, a quotation from his pages may be 
added to the particulars taken from Alexis. 

1 Alexis, I. c.j pp. 163-166. 


" On the first sheets of paper were sketches of the personages, 
notes about their appearance, temperament, and character. I found 
the mirotrs caraderistiques of Gervaise, Coupeau, Mother Cou- 
peau, the Lori]leux, the Boches, Goujet, and Madame Lerat. All 
the figures of the hook were there. The notes were laconic, like 
those of a court registrar, but free like those of a novelist, and 
sprinkled with short arguments, such as this : * Born under those 
circumstances, educated in that manner, he must conduct himself 
in such or such a way.' In one place was the query : ' "What 
else can a rascal of this stamp do 1 * ... I was struck by a sketch 
of Lantier's character, which was nothing but a string of adjec- 
tives, each stronger than the other, such as * gross, sensual, brutal, 
egotistical, smutty.' In some places appeared the words : i Use So 
and So, 1 meaning somebody known to the author. And the whole 
was penned in proper sequence in a large, clear handwriting. Then 
I saw sketches of places outlined in ink, and as accurate as the 
drawings of an engineer. There were a number. The whole 
book was drawn : the streets of the district in which the plot 
was laid, with their corners and indications of their shops ; the 
zigzags which Gervaise made to avoid her creditors, the direction 
taken by Nana in her Sunday escapades, the tipplers' peregri- 
nations from music-hall to boozing-ken, and the hospital and 
slaughter-house, between which one terrible evening the poor 
ironing woman went maddened by hunger. Then Marescot's 
big house was drawn in minute detail; there was the whole of 
the top floor with the landings, the windows, the mute's den, old 
Bru's hole all those dark passages in which one detected the 
gasp of death, those walls which resounded as if only empty 
paunches were within, those doors through which came an ever- 
lasting music of blows and the cries of little ones dying from 
starvation. There was also a plan of Gervaise's shop and home, 
room by room, with indications of the beds and tables, and here 
and there erasures and corrections, which suggested that Zola had 


amused himself by the hour, perhaps quite forgetting his story, 
immersed in his creation as if it were something he actually re- 
membered. * On other pages were notes of various kinds. I recol- 
lect two particularly 'twenty pages of description of such a 
thing, twelve pages of description of such a scene, to be divided 
into three parts.' One could divine that Zola had the descrip- 
tion in his head, formulated before it was set on paper ; that he 
could hear it resounding rhythmically within him, like music 
which only lacked words. This system of working with the com- 
passes, as it were, even at things of the imagination, is not so 
rare as some may imagine. Zola, for his part, is a great mechanic. 
One can see how his descriptions proceed, symmetrically, spaced 
out, separated at times by some padding to give the reader breath' 
ing time, and divided into almost equal sections, like that of the 
flowers of the Paradou in ' La Faute de FAbbe Mouret/ that of 
the thunder storm in * Une Page d'Amour,' and that of the death 
of Coupeau in * L'Assommoir.' One might say that for his mind 
to work at ease it is necessary Zola should first trace the precise 
limits of his work, know exactly at what points he may rest, and 
what will be the extent and aspect of his work when printed. 
When his materials are too large he cuts them down in order 
to get them within those limits ; when they are small he makes 
an effort to spin them out to the allotted point. He has an un- 
conquerable passion for due proportions which may occasionally 
tend to prolixity, but which frequently, by compelling his mind to 
dwell on his subject, renders his work deeper, more complete." 

Zola's books were written on small, unruled quarto paper, 
almost invariably of a very stout quality and highly glazed. 
Though his handwriting was large and bold he did not use 
a quill like Hugo and others, but the French equivalent of 
the J pen, and for some thirty years he invariably employed 
the same thick ivory holder, so heavy a one that the present 


writer, who had occasion to use it now and again when Zola 
was in England, could not help remarking that the hand 
might well feel tired after carrying it to paper for three or 
four successive hours. But with Zola it was a question of 
habit ; he could hardly write at all unless he had a weight 
of nearly three ounces in his hand, and he would he in 
quite a state of distress if an urgent letter had to be 
written and he lacked his usual implement. 

The script of his books was as a rule beautifully clear and 
open. On each slip he left a margin about two-thirds of an 
inch in width; his lines, on an average one and twenty per 
slip, were very straight and regular. The general character 
of his handwriting is shown by the fac-simile of a letter 
given in this volume, the concluding portion being more 
like his book "copy," for on the first page the script is 
rather smaller than usual It will be noticed that the 
writing is of a distinctly personal character. On consulting 
a large number of autographs we have found little like it, 
but the disconnected letters and syllables recall the writing 
of Boileau, Chateaubriand, Michelet, Jules Janin, and Yictor 
Hugo. Some specimens from Hugo's pen seem to indi- 
cate that if, instead of a sloping, he had written an upright 
hand, it might well have resembled Zola's. The latter, it 
may be remarked, never departed from his upright hand, 
whereas in autographs of some French authors -Dumas 
p@re and George Sand, for instance one finds now an up- 
right and now a sloping writing, the former being used in 
formal letters, the latter in notes to intimate friends, when 
the writers were not en repvesentat^on J but allowed their 
feelings full play. In Zola's case the upright hand appears 
in the most intimate letters as well as in his " copy " for the 


press, and thus it would seem to have been with him a 
natural, not an artificial, writing. One may add, without 
asserting any particular faith in graphology, that on apply- 
ing its rules, without prejudice, to Zola's writing, the latter 
will be found to indicate despotivity, stubbornness, insight, 
and orderliness, combined with poetry. Perhaps, then, there 
may be some truth in that alleged science. 

Here and there in Zola's book "copy" one finds words 
crossed out with double lines, and there are some inter- 
linear corrections, with occasionally a marginal addition, but 
these alterations are surprisingly few. If one judged Zola 
by his manuscripts only, one would take him to be a man 
who wrote au courant de la plume, without the slightest 
effort. But should his manuscripts ever be open to public 
inspection * it will be found that they differ largely from his 
printed works. His proof corrections were most extensive, 
whole sheets of his first proofs were sometimes cut to 
pieces, and numerous additional corrections and alterations 
appeared in his first revises. It was from second revises 
that the translations of his books were usually made, but 
further corrections often ensued. One has not yet reached 
his novel "Paris," nevertheless one may mention here that 
he modified the names of several characters in it at the last 
moment, altering Harn to Harth, Duthil to Dutheil, Sagnier 
to Sanier, and so forth ; and as, amid the great rush of the 

1 He was exceedingly jealous about them. The present writer has had a 
few in his possession, on trust, but always had to return them. There may 
be some early manuscripts of short stories in Eussia, and a few similar ones in 
the possession of French collectors ; but, as a rule, Zola insisted on the return 
of his " copy," and nearly the whole of it was in his possession when he died. 
As for the first proofs bearing his numerous corrections he repeatedly stated 
that almost all of them were destroyed. The writer has some revises con- 
taining occasional corrections, usually in the handwriting of Madame Zola. 


Dreyfus affair, he forgot to send any warning of what he 
had done, the English version appeared with the names 
unaltered. It may be added that Zola always welcomed 
suggestion and correction. The writer pointed out to him 
that two characters in " La Debacle " had the same Christian 
names, and that some confusion might arise respecting 
them. Forthwith in this case also at the last moment 
he altered one of the names, delaying the printing of the 
book for some days in order that the correction might be 
made. Again, on reading the proofs of " Borne " the writer 
detected a few topographical errors and called attention to 
them. Zola consulted his plans of the city and, finding 
he had erred, altered what he had written, at the same 
time requesting his translator to point out any further slips 
he might notice. Those were trifling matters, and are only 
mentioned here as instances of Zola's desire to make his 
books as perfect as possible. 

Naturally enough, they contain some blunders. For 
instance, Zola was in error when, at the outset of "Son 
Excellence Eug&ne Bougon," he pictured an official of the 
Corps L^gislatif reading the minutes of a previous sitting, 
whereas the minutes were always taken as read, for other- 
wise hours would have been consumed in their perusal. 
He also erred with respect to the betting odds on a horse 
in " Nana," which was not surprising, the turf being virtu- 
ally terra incognita to him. Again, and this was a bad 
blunder, in "La Faute de l'Abb6 Mouret, s>1 he spoke of 
lizards hatching their eggs on the rocks, instead of deposit- 
ing them there and leaving them to be hatched by the 
warmth of the atmosphere. Critics made much of that 
unfortunate slip, which reminds one of a curious mistake 

i P. 266L 


made by Alexandra Dumas p&re, who relates in a novel 
that the peritonitis (!) of one of his characters was per- 
forated by a sword thrust. Dumas certainly wrote rapidly, 
at times anyhow; but we must remember that the most 
painstaking works often fall short of perfection. M4- 
rim^e rewrote "Colomba" sixteen times before he sent it 
to the press; nevertheless several slips have been found 
in it. Flaubert devoted six years to " Madame Bovary," 
and yet pictured one of its characters paying another exactly 
eighty-five francs in two-franc pieces. Briefly, lapses are 
to be found in the most carefully written books as well as 
in the best-regulated families. 1 

In Zola's short stories, particularly the earlier ones, his 
style often remains light even when it is most ornate. In 
the Bougon-Macquart novels, the insistence on a multi- 
plicity of details tends to heaviness. Zola was well aware 
of it, for as far back as 1884, in conversation with Edmond 
de Goncourt, Maupassant, Huysmans, Alexis, and an Eng- 
lish friend, 2 he said: "I am in the habit of feeling the 
pulse of the public, and am compelled to say that I notice 
signs of a reaction against us, ... Our books will be 
regarded as heavy, and we cannot hide from ourselves that 
they are not easy to read. To follow us the reader has to 
make a determined mental effort." There is no little truth 

1 "We refer farther on to the death or Macquart by spontaneous combus- 
tion, in "Le Docteur Pascal." 

2 The last named (Mr. George Moore ?) gave, it seems, an account of this 
conversation in the ** St. James's Gazette," May 13, 1884 ; and the article 
was translated and published in Paris. Not having seen the English text, 
the present writer has followed the French version. It appears that the con- 
versation took place at the house of Edmond de Goncourt, on an occasion 
when the latter read to his friends his preface to " Cherie," in which he bade 
farewell to literature. 


in that remark, but one may add that Zola is easier to read 
and follow than many of his hrother realists. Fifty pages 
of the pyrotechnics of the Groncourts the labour connected 
with which killed the younger one, Jules, as Edmond often 
acknowledged may interest the reader, but after a few 
hundred of them one often feels dizzy and fagged. The 
brothers Margueritte, who proceeded from the Goncourts, 
have sometimes carried the passion for literary fireworks 
even further. Zola was quite unable to read their chief 
work, " Le D&astre." " I have taken up fchat book a dozen 
times/ 1 he said one day to the present writer, "but on each 
occasion, after picking my way through a few pages, I have 
had to put it down. There is some trick of style in every 
sentence. One is never allowed a moment's rest. After 
each of those trials it has seemed to me as if my head 
would split." 

On another occasion lie remarked: "Nothing changes 
more frequently than the fashion in literary style. That 
is why so many books, although often not very old, are 
quite unreadable. Our decadents insist on polishing and 
repolishing their style till their writings become mere jew- 
ellery work, which will please nobody a few years hence, 
I myself dabbled in such work formerly. When it does not 
run to any great length it amuses one, and it may interest 
the critic, even please the reader, like something fresh and 
novel. But the latter soon sickens of it. He does not want 
to be obliged to cudgel his brain at every sentence." 

It is generally held by the critics that the descriptions 
of Paris appended to each section of " Une Page d' Amour " 
are among the finest passages to be found in the Rougon- 
Macquart novels. But the present writer after reperusing 


them, is inclined to regard their beauty as being some- 
what too artificial, too elaborate. One may well prefer 
the panorama of the quays of Paris in "L'CEuvre," the 
picture of daybreak at the central markets in " Le Ventre 
de Paris," the descente and the rentree of the workers in 
"L'Assommoir," and the march of the pitmen in "Germinal." 
In the former instances the spectacle which Zola sets before 
the reader has a vividness that leaves a lasting impression ; 
in the latter you are borne along with the crowds which 
the author has conjured forth, you can see and hear their 
tramp, the sensation of motion being rendered with a skill 
which few writers have ever equalled. Further, as a superb 
example of the horrible blended with the pathetic, one may 
cite the wonderful description of the death of little Charles, 
in "Le Docteur Pascal." 

"Germinal," " L'Assommoir," "La D4Mcle," and "La 
Terre " are ranked as the four pillars of the Rougon-Mac- 
quart series. From a purely literary standpoint the first 
is superior to the second, because it contains less slang. 
The use of slang in dialogue is often advisable, even neces- 
sary ; but in narrative and descriptive passages it is difficult 
to defend it unless the story be told in the first person by 
one who habitually speaks slang. Zola had some such idea 
in writing " L'Assommoir " (which he pictured as a book 
about the people by one of them), but shrank from carry- 
ing it to its logical conclusion, and the result, in a literary 
sense, was not quite pleasing. 1 However, both ." Germinal " 

1 In writing " I/ Assommoir " Zola did not merely consult the existing slang 
dictionaries. The scene of the story was laid at half an hour's walk from 
his own home. He prowled the whole neighbourhood for weeks, observing 
and listening ; and before he set pen to paper he prepared a little slang lexicon, 
for his own. use, one which may some day be published. He kept this com- 


and * L'Assommoir " are living books, the greatest their 
author ever penned. 

Passing to " La D^bScle," this is certainly a wonderfully 
truthful panorama of war and its horrors, though the 
psychology of several of its characters is open to criticism. 
Too many of them lack robustness ; they seem too full of 
nerves to be regarded as typical. In the case of Maurice, 
a mere degenerate, the picture is accurate enough; but 
assuredly many feelings which JSola and others have attrib- - 
uted to soldiers are little known in actual war. The ma- 
jority of military men are far less sensitive than some have 
said, and incident often follows incident so rapidly in real 
battle that there is no time for thought or emotion at all. 
* La Terre M also has faults, the outcome of Zola's reforming 
purpose, which led him to assemble too many black charac- 
ters within a small circle; had they been more dispersed 
among people of an average kind the effect would have 
been more lifelike. In <( Nairn" the general blackness of 
the characters does not seem out of place, for only men and 
women of a sorry sort gravitate around a harlot A few 
more average characters in " La Terre/' or, rather, more 
prominence given to some who scarcely appear in its pages 
would have greatly improved the book. Here, however, 
as in " Pot-Bouille," Zola, carried away by his feelings, over- 
looked that doctrine of average truth, of which Ste.-Beuve 
had reminded him apropos of " Thdrkse Raquin." He then 
admitted that he had piled on the agony unduly, and he 
made the same mistake in two or three volumes of " Les 

pilation at his elbow while he was writing, and every time he "borrowed from it 
a word or expression he marked the latter with a "blue pencil, iu order to avoid 
too frequent a repetition of the same term. 


Bougon-Macqnart/' But when all is said "La Terre" re- 
mains one of Ms strongest and most truthful books. 1 

The savage brutishness of the chief characters in the 
work may well seem impossible to the ignorant; but al- 
though in reading "La Terre" one should always bear in 
mind that Zola never pretended that all peasants were like 
those in his grim picture, it is certain that his personages, 
individually, are accurately drawn. Awful is the record of 
parricides, matricides, fratricides, common murders, murder- 
ous assaults, rapes, and offences of inferior degree perpe- 
trated in rural France. And earth hunger, disputes about 
property, boundaries, inheritances, and so forth, will be found 
at the bottom of the great majority of cases. But "La 
Terre" does not deal exclusively with the criminal side of 
peasant life. It pictures many other features : it describes 
the drawbacks of the small-holdings system, shows agri- 
culture hampered by the extreme subdivision of the soil, 
traces the march of revolutionary and socialist principles 
among those who till it; sketching, too, on the way, the 
treatment which the imperial regime accorded to the 

There is not space here to pass all the Bougon-Macquart 
volumes in review from a critical point of view. One may 
say, however, that generally, though not invariably, those 
dealing with a multiplicity of characters are superior to 
those in which Zola analyses the feelings and actions of a 
few. It is acknowledged he excelled in portraying the 

i A writer in the " Athenaeum " [No. 3911, October 11, 1902], when review- 
ing Miss Betham-Edwards's " East of Paris," pointed out that in a previous 
work, "France of To-day," 1892, she had denounced "La Terre/' and de- 
clared it to he " crushingly refuted "; whereas ten years later she admitted 
that it was "not without foundation on fact. 11 


" crowd." Structural faults are to be found in various vol- 
umes. For instance, the long idyll of Silv&re and Miette 
interrupts the narrative of " La Fortune des Rougon " un- 
duly ; and the poetical Paradou portion of " La Faute de 
I'AbM Mouret" is hardly compatible with the realism of 
the opening and concluding chapters. Then " Le Rve " is 
almost out of place in the series, for though the Naturalist 
writer must take account of the dreamy aspirations and im- 
aginings of certain hearts and minds, it is perhaps exces- 
sive to picture those dreams fulfilled in actual happenings. 
Again, there is some artificiality in " Une Page d'Amour/' 
Innumerable as are the love intrigues in French society 
one may well doubt if an analysis of any would yield the 
psychology of Zola's work. " La Cuie," on the other hand, 
within the limitations imposed on the author by circum- 
stances and personal knowledge, is a sound piece of work, 
quite irrespective of the poetical intentions which some 
critics have ascribed to it. Passing to such volumes as " La 
Conqu6te de Plassans," " Le Ventre de Paris," and " Son Ex- 
cellence," one finds that though they may be minor works 
they are very near to life and historical truth. Then 
" Nana," a great book from the social standpoint, is almost 
one in the literary sense also. But while freely admitting 
the greatness of " L'Assommoir " and " Germinal,'* the vol- 
ume which particularly appeals to the present writer is rt Le 
Docteur Pascal," perhaps because Zola therein expounds and 
defends his theory of life. The love of uncle and niece, 
pictured in this book, may offend the feelings of English 
and American Protestants, but they ought to remember that 
in Catholic countries marriages often take place between 
people connected by that tie of relationship. The writer, 


for Ms part, has nothing whatever to say against them from 
the moral standpoint ; he deprecates them, even, as he dep- 
recates all marriages between relations, on physiological 
grounds. But the affections bow neither to legal enact- 
ments nor to scientific rules ; love, as we are all aware, has 
no master ; and if, therefore, one accept the position of Dr. 
Pascal and his niece Glotilde, Zola's work will he found one 
of absorbing interest for the thinking mind. True, it is dis- 
figured by an error which the reader must set aside : the 
death of the old drunkard Macquart by spontaneous com- 
bustion, for scientists have declared such a death to be 
impossible. Zola, however, long before writing "Le Doc- 
teur Pascal/' had found a case of the kind recorded in a 
scientific work ; and for years, as several of his letters and 
utterances show, he had nursed the idea of bringing it into 
his final volume. Nobody then warned him of his error, 
but directly his book appeared several scientists protested 
that, whatever might be the effects of alcoholism, it could 
not lead to a death like Macquart's. That episode, then, 
must be dismissed, but the bulk of the book remains, with 
its terrible lessons, its pages of vivid and merciless analysis, 
its pictures of the evils of life relieved by a glowing faith 
in nature's power for good, an optimism which nothing dis- 
mays, which points to the dawn of a brighter day for 
humanity, whatever may be its present condition. And 
from the purely literary standpoint * Le Docteur Pascal " is 
admirable. Its style is perfect. The descriptive and the 
analytical passages are replete with beauty, depth, and force 
of expression. Poetry is here so thoroughly welded with 
prose that one cannot object to it as one may in some other 
volumes, such, for instance, as " Tine Page d' Amour," where 


it seems merely a beautiful excrescence. The psychology of 
the characters in "Le Docteur Pascal 3 ' is also good. In 
point of fact, no doubt, this was a long meditated work. 
Almost from the time when Zola began his series at least 
as soon as the Empire had fallen he pictured the finale 
ahead of him, he thought of it during all the years when he 
was writing the intervening volumes, he gradually planned 
and perfected it in his mind long before he actually wrote 
it It is not a book for the vulgar, who come and go, heed- 
less of the problems, possibilities, and purposes of life ; but 
though the love of Pascal and Clotilde may offend moral 
prejudices, though from the standpoint of scientific accuracy 
the narrative may be disfigured by the error of Macquart's 
death, we hold this to be the noblest, the most convincing, 
the most consoling book that Zola ever wrote* Such an 
opinion, however, may not find much acceptance in England 
and America where the bias in favour of revealed religion is 
so strong. 

Without insisting further on the merits or demerits of 
particular volumes, if we glance at the series as a whole 
we shall find it to be an unexampled achievement. It is 
more self-contained than " La Com^die Humaine," in writing 
which Balzac really had no definite plan. As M. Chaumi6, 
French Minister of Public Instruction, has said : " In Zola's 
work one finds all society . . . with the milieux in which 
it displays its activity, the men composing it, the passions 
which stir and sway them, their vices, sorrows, and mis- 
eries, the sufferings too of the disinherited, the whole 
forming so striking and so true a picture that after con- 
templating it those with the poorest like those with the 
keenest sight must realise the necessity of remedying those 

<-. ' ! > ' "' ,", 

Maitre Labor! 


sufferings, contending against those vices, and assuaging 
those sorrows* . . . Thus, what might have been only an 
admirable literary achievement, an inestimable document 
on a period, an ever-living picture of a given time . . . 
acquires greater grandeur, is insured of yet loftier glory, 
by the generous spirit which inspired it." 1 

Further, though it has been suggested here that some ex- 
aggeration and some flaws may appear in the psychology of 
certain individual characters, the series as a whole responds to 
Taine's definition of literature as " a living psychology." As 
M. Paul Bourget has said : " Zola regarded the novel as a 
kind of hypothetical experiment, attempted on positive 
bases, the first condition for success being that the bases 
should be accurate and the hypothesis logical. When the 
hour of justice strikes for that unwearying toiler people 
will recognise what immense preliminary toil and study lay 
beneath each of his books. They will also discern his un- 
wavering purpose to inquire fully into the condition of 
contemporary France, to carry his inquiry as far as possible 
in order to set the social problem completely and accu- 
rately before one. His right to depict all reality (la rdaliU 
totale), which is that of every sociologist, even of every his- 
torian, will not be disputed then." 

It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader that the 
Eougon-Macquart novels should be studied, whenever pos- 
sible, in the original French, and not in translations. There 
have been many versions of the books in the English lan- 
guage ; the present writer has made himself responsible for 
not a few of them ; and certainly translations are in a meas- 
ure useful, for as yet a knowledge of foreign languages is 

1 Funeral oration on Zola. 


limited to a minority of the reading public. Besides, it is 
usually possible to transmit in a translation, at least in 
essential particulars, the lesson which a book is intended 
to convey* But at the same time much is lost, and in a 
good many instances translations which have even taken 
rank as literature do not adequately represent their origi- 
nals. At the present day, with respect to contemporary 
works, excellence in translation is scarcely to be obtained, 
for commercial conditions militate against it. An author 
may give years to the writing of a book, whereas the Eng- 
lish translator is compelled to prepare his version in a few 
months, at times even in a few weeks, for it is often stipu- 
lated by the publisher that the translation must appear at 
the same time as the original It may be necessary also 
for the English translator to attend to some serial publica- 
tion, and to provide for copyright in America, with the re- 
sult that the work has to be done hastily, in a rough and 
ready manner. Again, the prices paid for translations are 
usually so low that few men of real ability are willing to 
undertake them. The writer, though he has had great ex- 
perience in these matters, can suggest no remedy, for un- 
doubtedly the commercial as well as the literary side of the 
question has to be considered, and even if a translator, re- 
gardless of gain, were to bestow on his work all the time 
and care it might deserve, the chances would be that no 
publisher would look at it, for the market would be gone 
so swiftly do even very able books perish in these modern 

With respect to the writer's own work, as translator or 
as editor of various English versions of Zola's novels, he is 
fully aware of its many imperfections, due in some in- 


stances to the time limit imposed on Mm, and in others 
to pecuniary and similar considerations. Again, British 
Pharisaism being what it is he had never been able to 
give an absolutely complete version of any of Zola's books. 
Still he has always tried to preserve the spirit of the origi- 
nal, even when he has been compelled to throw off his 
"copy" at express speed. And in any case his versions, 
like those of others, will at least have served the purpose of 
making most of Zola's views known to thousands who are 
unable to read French. 

But to properly appreciate and judge any one of the works 
of the great novelist it must be read in the original and 
in its entirety. That demands a good sound knowledge of 
French. Nothing has amazed the writer more than to re- 
ceive from time to time during the last twelve years a note 
to this effect : " Dear Sir, I am learning French, and in 
order to gain a better knowledge of it, I think of trying to 
read one of Zola's books with the help of a dictionary. 
Which volume would you recommend me to try ? "Which 
is an easy one?" Such an idea is, of course, ludicrous. 
Zola's style is not particularly involved, his vocabulary if 
large is not recondite, but to understand him properly the 
reader must possess more than a mere smattering of French. 
In some volumes, too, he deals with technical subjects, while 
in others he occasionally uses slang or purely Parisian ex- 
pressions, in which cases dictionaries are of very little help. 
The present writer found it necessary to study certain sub- 
jects carefully before attempting to translate some of Zola's 
volumes : for it was only by doing so that he could avoid 
mistakes. For instance, the English version of " Travail " 
necessitated the perusal of several text-books on metallurgy, 


and a visit to some large English steel works. An Ameri- 
can version of the same hook was made by a person who 
did not take that precaution, with the result that it liter- 
ally bristled with technical errors. When one considers the 
vast range of Zola's subjects, it must he obvious that the 
work of translating his books amounts to little less than a 
liberal education. The writer must confess that for his part 
he learnt a great deal by the work, so that if he conferred 
no particular advantage on his readers he at least benefited 

In previous chapters some mention has been made of 
Zola's repeated efforts as a playwright, and as after 1893 
he only penned some libretti for the music of his friend, 
M. Bruneau, one may here add a few words respecting his 
plays. None of those which he wrote without assistance 
proved a success, though he often claimed that some of the 
public were favourable to " Le Bouton de Rose," which, said 
he, was damned mainly by the critics. On the other hand the 
stage-craft of M. Busnach made a success of " L'Assommoir " 
and of one or two other adaptations. In all probability the 
correct view to take of Zola's writings for and about the 
French stage is that their influence, however considerable, 
was chiefly indirect. Realism has come to dramatic litera- 
ture on which the novel always reacts but the younger 
French dramatists rightly regard M. Henri Becque as their 
more immediate sponsor. At the same time several things 
that Zola desired to see have come to pass ; a good many of 
his philosophical and social ideas are to be found in the con- 
temporary French drama. Now and again they appear some- 
what conspicuously, as in M. Octave Mirbeau's play "Les 
Mauvais Bergers," and in some of the works of M. Brieux. 


Again, M. Gustave Charpentier's famous roman musical, 
" Louise," produced in 1900, was distinctly Zolaesque in its 
inspiration; one of its chief features, the frequent evocation 
of Paris, proceeding directly from "Une Page d* Amour.** 
Further Zola's influence was at times destructive. Soon 
after " La Terre " had "been published in Paris the Com^die 
Franaise revived George Sand's peasant-play "Francois le 
Champi," which since its first production in 1849 had been 
frequently played with success at the Ode*on Theatre. But 
the revival at the Comddie proved a complete failure, the 
play which had lived for nearly forty years being slain in 
a few nights. Originally regarded as ultra-realistic, it ap- 
peared quite insipid to the generation which had just perused 
"La Terre." To sum up, even as the influence of Balzac 
(though he wrote little for the stage) was apparent in 
dramatic productions from 1850 to 1870, something similar 
though, perhaps, less pronounced may be observed with re- 
spect to the more recent influence of Zola. He, by the way, 
was once asked his opinion of the influence of Ibsen on the 
French stage, and of Tolstoi and other Russians on the 
French novel, and he replied that he did not attach much 
importance to the question, for he held that the ideas which 
were supposed to rain on Paris from the North were In real- 
ity French ones, which had been disseminated by French 
writers, and had come back to their place of origin, occa- 
sionally crystallised or intensified by the more sombre im- 
agination of Scandinavian and Russian minds. 




Zola* 3 personal appearance A palmist's reading of his hand Some of hia 
petty manias and superstitions His powers of observation. His mem- 
ory Characteristics of his intellect His daily life His orderliness 

His ** confession " The drama of his life A childless home Birth 
of ah illegitimate daughter and son Some great men and the moral law 

Some eminent women and the popular standard of morality The 
alleged " new Zola" Sermonising novels " L'Attaque du Moulin " 
as an opera The trilogy of " Lourdes," ** Borne,*' and "Paris " Faith, 
hope, and charity to he replaced by fruitfulness, work, truth, and justice 

Attacks on *' Lourdes " Arrest of Dreyfus Zola, his book ** Borne," 
and Pope I*eo XIII. His stay in the Eternal City He visits hia 
Italian relatives Difficulties of writing ''Rome" Its publication 
Charges of plagiarism and Zola's answer His volume ** Kouvelle Cam- 
pagne " His opinion of a clairvoyant* His first defence of the Jews. 

Isr middle age Zola was about five feet seven inches high. 
His trunk was short, his legs being rather long for a man 
of the stature indicated, but he had a broad and prominent 
chest, and his shoulders were well set. His left foot was 
sensibly shorter than the right, his instep was very arched. 
He had small wrists, but large though shapely hands with 
small round nails. According to Dr. Edouard Toulouse I all 
the diameters of his skull were distinctly above the average, 
but his brain was never weighed, for at the time of his death 

1 *' Unquote Meclico-Psychologique sur les Bapports de la Superiority Intel- 
lectuelle avec la NeVropathie. Introduction generale. Jmile Zola," by Dr. 
& Toulouse, Paris, 1896. 


Ms friends resisted applications made to them by certain 
scientists to whom, it seems, Zola himself had almost prom- 
ised that his remains would be at their disposal. 

Being very short-sighted, he usually wore glasses, seen 
though which his eyes seemed deep and somewhat stern; 
but in intimacy they softened and sparkled freely. At one 
period he wore his hair short, at another long, and according 
to these variations his forehead seemed to change, assuming 
at one time an appearance of abnormal height. His lips were 
somewhat thick and sensual, inclined to pout. He had large 
ears, and heard better with the left than with the right. 
For music, in spite of his long association with M. Bruneau, 
the composer, he really had little ear, though he possessed a 
keen sense of rhythm. On looking at him the feature that 
most struck one was certainly his nose, which had a gradu- 
ally broadening, lobulated tip. Edmond de Goncourt declared 
that Zola's physiognomy was summed up in this somewhat 
peculiar nasal organ, 1 which, he jestingly remarked, resem- 
bled the muzzle of a sporting dog, and assumed all sorts of 
expressions indicating, in turn, approval, condemnation, 
wonder, amusement, sadness, or whatever else might be its 
owner's opinion or mood. While making all allowance for 
humoristic exaggeration, there was certainly some truth in 
Goncourt's words. 2 

Zola's hands, to which reference has been made above, were 
examined on one occasion by a " palmist " ; and for the ben- 
efit of those who believe in chiromancy one may mention 
that the sibyl's pronouncement was to this effect: "A great 

* "Journal des Goncourt," Yol. VI, p. 254. 

2 According to Dr. Toulouse, Zola was less keen than most people in de- 
tecting odours, but he had a " smell memory" and could remember objects 
by their scent 


change at forty years of age ; a long life ; a sudden death ; 
fond of family life and travelling ; proficient in art and par- 
tial to military music ; confident in the future but having 
little confidence in himself personally; a large heart but 
more philanthropically inclined towards collectivities than 
towards individuals; possessed of a deep sense of justice, 
the slightest injustice exasperating him ; admiring audacity, 
strength, and authority while fond of liberty for himself ; 
influenced more by Ms mind than by sensual passion at the 
outset of his love affairs, but afterwards extremely ardent." l 
The lack of self-confidence indicated by the palmist was 
confirmed by Zola to Dr, Toulouse, who found that the nov- 
elist's doubt of himself was excessive and unreasonable. 
He frequently feared that he might be unable to accom- 
plish his daily task, finish the book he had begun, or con- 
clude the speech he was delivering. At one period, before 
lie could go to bed he had to satisfy a peculiar craving to 
touch and retouch certain articles of furniture, open and 
reopen certain drawers, Arithmomania pursued him : he was 
for ever counting the gas lamps in one or another street, and 
the number of the houses. He long believed multiples of 
three to be of good augury, but later, as he told Goncourt, 
multiples of seven inspired him with most confidence. 
Moreover, he was so susceptible to thunder and lightning 
that whenever a storm burst over M&lan all the shutters 
had to be closed and all the lamps lighted, after which he 
would often bandage his eyes with a handkerchief. Even 
when, there was no storm and he found himself in absolute 
darkness, he was occasionally troubled by what seemed to 
be luminous phenomena. 

i Published in 1893. 


A dreadful idea came to Mm now and then : it was that 
his heart had moved into his arm or his thigh, and that he 
could feel it beating there. It must be said, too, that he 
was most sensitive to physical pain 1 and extremely sub- 
ject to emotion, which brought on attacks of a form of 
angina from which he suffered, periodically, over a period of 
thirty years. The insults levelled at him by unscrupulous 
journalists, as much with respect to the alleged obscenity of 
his writings as to his share in the Dreyfus case, constantly 
led to such attacks, but his mind being always superior 
to his body, he never swerved from what he regarded as 
his duty the enunciation of inconvenient truths even 
though he knew he would be savagely denounced for it 
and that his ailment would necessarily return. Briefly, as 
Dr. Toulouse has said, Ms emotivite, although morbid, 
always left his mind in a state of perfect lucidity and equi- 
librium. To the psychologist and the physician his ex- 
ample demonstrated, in the most unimpeachable manner, 
the authority of the mind over the body, the power of the. 
will over disease. 

His powers of observation were exceptionally keen. DT. 
Toulouse, in the course of an experiment he made with 
him, placed a photograph of an idiot child before his eyes 
for a few moments. He immediately noticed certain ana- 
tomical peculiarities which as a rule would only strike 
a medical man, and he noticed them although they were 
scarcely perceptible in the photograph, which had greatly 

1 He showed great sensitiveness to all cutaneous impressions. He conld 
not wear clothes in any degree tight, or lie in bed "tucked in." As a rule 
he slept for seven hours, and on awaking he constantly complained of pains 
in one and another part of the body, this being a symptom common among 
those who are liable to nervous affections. 


faded. But, adds Dr. Toulouse, as soon as Zola ceased 
to observe consciously, his attention flagged, and at times 
lie did not even recognise acquaintances whom he met in 
the street "They think," he said to the doctor, "that 
when I forget to acknowledge them I am absorbed in 
deep meditation about my next novel, but as a matter of 
fact I am not thinking of anything/' It was the same 
with his memory. When he wished to remember any ob- 
ject or scene, the details became printed on his mind as 
clearly and fully as if they had been photographed. But 
unless he made a voluntary effort, his memory did not serve 
him. When he was President de la Soci<5t6 des Gens de 
Lettres three months elapsed before he could repeat the 
names of the twenty-four members of the committee. If 
he had been as deeply interested in those gentlemen as he 
was in the facts he collected for his books, he would cer- 
tainly have recalled their names at once. 

Some novelists note everything around them, people, 
places, and occurrences, and store them up for subsequent 
use in one or another book ; but that was not Zola's system. 
If he were writing about peasants, other matters scarcely 
interested him. You might have told him something curi- 
ous about soldiers or financiers, he would have given it 
little heed. He isolated his mind, as it were, concen- 
trated it entirely on the subject he had in hand. Moreover, 
his imagination was as systematic as his memory. As 
stated in a previous chapter, he first decided on the gen- 
eral ideas he would illustrate; then, by deduction, he im- 
agined the characters likely to illustrate those ideas. A 
thousand concrete facts thereupon arose in his mind, 
grouped themselves in his system, and imparted life to 


his philosophical abstractions. That faculty, that power of 
assembling affinitive images, tending to a logical end, was 
preponderant in Zola. By its means the psychical processus 
is canalised, mental effort and waste are diminished, and 
the will is able to act in a well-defined manner. In Zola 
such power was developed to the highest degree, and therein 
will be found the reason of his intellectual superiority. 
It links him with all the great creators possessed of syste- 
matic minds, the men who have gone, not groping darkly, 
but with patient effort and in full light, towards their objects. 
Hugo and Balzac showed by their writings that their brains 
were organised in the same manner. The quick and incon- 
siderate mind, so unequal in its inspirations, which is often 
attributed to artists, does not seem compatible with great 
creative power, the latter acting in a much more uniform 
manner. Zola's particular mentality explains both his life 
and his work. He systematised in literature the realistic 
tendencies of the philosophy of Comte and Taine ; and he 
carried that systematisation to its farthest limit by creating 
the novel of complete observation (le roman d* observation 
integrale), in which he studied heredity under all its as- 
pects, recoiling from no audacity either of observation or 
of expression. 

By mere reasoning, adds Dr, Toulouse, whom we still fol- 
low, 1 Zola's systematic mind traced for itself a course of 
action which was often at variance with his instincts, yet 
he followed it perseveringly, sustained merely by his con- 
ception of duty. His tendency to gout and corpulence 
(which last he overcame by sheer determination) must 

1 Not in the work previously quoted, but in a paper lie wrote after Zola's 
death ("Le Temps," Octoter, 1902). 


have predisposed him to laziness, but lie mastered any 
such inclination by compelling himself to do a certain 
amount of work every day. As a rule he then wrote 
quite sufficient "copy" to form three pages of one of his 
books, in addition to occasional newspaper articles. He 
also carried on an extensive correspondence, yet the only 
time when he had recourse to secretarial help was the 
period of the Dreyfus case. Nulla dies sine linea was a 
motto he had adopted early in life, and lest it should be 
forgotten it was graven in letters of gold over the fireplace 
of his large study at Mdan, where most of his books were 

At M^dan he rose at eight o'clock, went for an hour's 
stroll, seating himself at his writing table at nine and writ- 
ing till one o'clock, usually on an empty stomach, for after 
he had resolved to conquer his corpulence his first meal 
consisted generally of a mere crust of bread, though now 
and again he might partake of a couple of eggs "on the 
plate," which to please him had to be cooked to a nicety. At 
one o'clock he lunched; and then, perhaps, came a short 
nap, after which he either read the papers or worked at 
an article or went out walking, cycling, or boating. If he 
were at home in the afternoon, he drank a cup of tea, and 
this carried him on till dinner, which was served at half- 
past seven. Afterwards, if friends were staying with him, 
there might be a game of billiards or a quiet chat over 
another cup of tea. For some years he drank nothing at 
all with his meals, at which he preferred his fish fried and 
his meat grilled; but later he allowed himself a glass of 
water, and on a hot afternoon, if he were thirsty, he now 
and then indulged in a little white wine and eau de Seltz. 


Red wine lie did not touch, from 1887 till the time of Ms 
death ; but occasionally, after a meal or in the evening, he 
treated himself to a thimbleful of old cognac or some liqueur. 
This happened perhaps once a week, not more frequently, 
so it will be seen that he was almost a total abstainer. 

Both at Mddan and in Paris (unless he were spending 
the evening in society or at a theatre) Zola retired to his 
bedroom between ten and eleven o'clock, but he generally 
remained reading there for some hours before he actu- 
ally went to bed. His mornings in Paris like those at 
M6dan were given to writing; and as he could not boat 
or conveniently cycle in the metropolis, his afternoon out- 
ings resolved themselves into visits or strolls to sundry 
places which he might wish to describe in some forthcom- 
ing book. Six o'clock in the evening was the hour usually 
appointed for receiving newspaper interviewers or those 
who brought him letters of introduction. His Sundays 
were spent much like his week-days, except that instead of 
working at a book he then often gave the morning to letter- 
writing. Glancing through a large collection of his letters 
we find some scores of them written on one and another 
Sunday. These particulars will show the general orderli- 
ness of his life, which was further exemplified by his ex- 
tremely tidy habits, the regularity with which he changed 
Ms clothes directly he came home, substituting a loose flan- 
nel shirt, a working jacket, and slippers for his linen, his 
black coat, and his boots. And he never left the slightest 
litter of papers in his workroom; such documents as he 
might be using were set out tidily on various tables ; the 
newspapers he read were always neatly folded directly he 
had finished perusing them ; the very string of the parcels 


lie received was at once rolled up and put aside in a drawer ; 
he liked to have everything spick and span, and it was he 
himself who attended to virtually all the menage of his 
Parisian and country workrooms. 

About 1893 a "confession" of the drawing-room order 
was extracted from Zola, and on consulting it one finds 
him stating that his favourite colour (like Daudet's) was 
red and his favourite flower the rose, though he also had 
a taste for peonies and dahlias, which he grew in profusion 
at M^dan, Contrary to Daudet, who expressed a liking for 
no animals or birds whatever, he declared that he liked 
them all Work, he wrote, was his favourite occupation, 
while his dream of happiness was to do nothing. The 
quality he preferred in man was kind-heartedness, in woman 
tenderness* His favourite authors, painters, and composers 
were those who saw and expressed things clearly. His 
favourite heroes and heroines in fiction were those who 
were not heroes or heroines ; in real life, those who earned 
their bread. The greatest misfortune he knew was to re- 
main in doubt respecting anything ; the historical characters 
he most despised were traitors ; the gift he most desired to 
possess was eloquence ; and the way he would like to die 
was "suddenly." 

Of one longing which possessed Zola for several years 

there is no mention in the " confession " ; neither is it indi- 


cated in Dr. Toulouse's "Enqute." But its nature and its 
consequences must be stated here. Eminent writers have 
more than once laid down the rule that if in writing an 
account of any living individual it is best to preserve reti- 
cence and avoid everything offensive, on the other hand it 
is essential that the biographer of one who is dead and gone 


should tell the truth respecting him. Of course it may 
prove advisable, and indeed justice itself may require, that 
one should he kind to his virtues and a little blind to his 
faults, for the former may be many and exemplary, and the 
latter few and unimportant ; but if one were to ignore the 
last completely a very erroneous impression would be con- 
veyed, the suppressio veri being equivalent to the suggestio 
falsi. Nevertheless in this present age, when so many 
agree to shun the truth because it offends the superfine 
delicacy of their degenerate natures, one is constantly con- 
fronted by so-called biographies of eminent men, and notable 
women also, in which a variety of facts are suppressed, the 
world at large being taught to look at these people through 
deceptive glasses which show them perfect, whereas, in 
reality, their flaws were often great. At times, indeed, one 
is invited to contemplate such beings as can never have 
existed, and though the falsity of the picture may merely irri- 
tate the scholar, it utterly misleads the uninitiated, tending 
to absolutely erroneous conceptions and adding yet another 
lie to the many on which present-day society is based. 

In the case of Zola, he was such an impassioned servant 
of truth that to conceal the truth concerning him, to paint 
him in false colours, would be doing him a wrong. Besides, 
he never claimed that he was perfect, he knew that he was 
very human. Further, the facts which must now be men- 
tioned were written about more or less accurately, but openly, 
in several Parisian newspapers at the time of his death ; 
the present writer also had occasion to refer to them in 
a newspaper article ; and some American journals likewise 
gave them currency. Thus the omission of all mention of 
them here would be as ridiculous as misleading. At the 


same time it is quite unnecessary to go beyond the essential 
facts, which may be recounted with comparative brevity. 

When Zola married, about the time he began his Rougon- 
Macquart novels, he certainly looked forward to a life of 
unalloyed happiness. But though he achieved celebrity 
and became possessed of comparative wealth, though his 
wife was all love and devotion, there remained a great void 
in his existence. He had no child, and the desire for pa- 
ternity was strong within him. One can trace it through 
many of his books, and there is no doubt whatever that 
it became a fixed idea with him, was responsible for some of 
his petty superstitions, and entered even into that dread of 
death which the loss of his mother and of his friend Flau- 
bert at one time suggested. He would die and would leave 
no posterity. Of what value was life, then ? He had always 
regarded transmission as being its first essential function ; 
and it tortured him at times to think that he was famous, 
that he was rich, and that he would leave no offspring 
behind him. 

It may be said that this happens to many men ; that some 
become more or less reconciled to it ; that some go, quietly 
grieving, to their graves. Others, however, are egotistical 
enough to experience no desire for paternity. There are 
also instances of men to whom an extreme culture imparts a 
kind of self-sufficingness : for example, all the unmarried 
philosophers, from those of Greece to those of our own 
times. Even among the great men who have married one 
will find many unblessed with offspring. Scientists have 
occasionally tried to explain this in one way or another, but 
no explanation seems to be of general applicability. In that 
connection one must remember that there have also been 


many men, distinguished by the exceptional activity of their 
minds, who have left large families. Occasionally they may 
have survived their children, as in the case of that untiring 
worker, Victor Hugo, but none the less, even if they have had 
the grief of losing both sons and daughters, they have known 
the happiness of paternity. 

That a craving for such happiness should have become in- 
tense in a man like Zola, with all the emotional tendencies 
of his temperament, was natural, perhaps fatal. It was 
one of the sufferings that made him seek a refuge in steady, 
all-absorbing work, and for years, by immersing himself in 
his task, he contrived to dull his pain and silence all the 
suggestions of a rebellious nature. Goncourt, one day after 
returning from a visit to M6dan, jotted down in his diary 
some remarks about the gloom, the emptiness of that spacious 
abode. There were plenty of dogs, but there were no chil- 
dren, and children were necessary to such a home. It is 
evident that Goncourt with his keen penetration had divined 
the secret grief of its master and mistress. But years rolled 
on, and hopes first fondly cherished, then clung to with de- 
spairing tenacity, remained unfulfilled. The moralist will 
say undoubtedly that resignation was the one right course, 
but human nature seldom resigns itself willingly to any- 
thing, and certainly Zola's nature was not one to do so. 
As he approached his fiftieth year it began to assert itself, 
as Goncourt shows us in another passage of his " Journal " ; 
and then, after long years of battling, however strong the 
spirit might still be, the flesh finally triumphed over it. 

It is unnecessary to review what the Bible and Buckstone, 
Taylor and Kent, Montesquieu and Potier have to say re- 
specting the violation of the marriage vow, and the distinc- 



tions which may be drawn between the action of husband and 
of wife. Nor need there be any defence on the lines of the 
tMorie du d$u% morale* as interpreted by Nisard* One 
may allow that there is strictly only one moral law for both 
sexes and for all stations in life, royal as well as plebeian. 
At the same time one is entitled to indicate whatever ex- 
tenuating circumstances may exist One may think of the 
position of Thomas and Jane Carlyle, as enunciated by 
the supporters of the former, and then picture a very dif- 
ferent sequel, for in Zola's case a time came when he was 
carried away from the path of strict duty, and in the result 
a child was born to him, a daughter called Denise. Later 
came the birth of a son, called Jacques. An echo of what 
happened the tempestuous passion of a man of ripe years 
for m young woman resounded through the pages of 
<f Le Docteur Pascal/' while w F&sondiW published much 
later, revealed many of the sufferings, much of the yearning, 
that had led to this crisis in Zola's life. 

Those who are perfect may now throw stones. Many 
who are not will, of course, do so, regardless of permission, 
and with the greater alacrity as the dead man cannot answer 
them. But he was forgiven long ago by the one person 
who was entitled to complain. There was much suffering, 
much unhappiness, of which the world heard nothing, but 
at last her broad nobility of mind rose above the personal 
wrong and the common prejudice, and in these later days 
she has transferred much of the devotion with which she 
encompassed her husband to the children whose birth fol- 
lowed the crisis which, at one time, threatened to sweep 
the home away. 

Let us remember, too, that the case of Zola was in no wise 


exceptional Our great men have to be taken with their 
faults as with their virtues. Englishmen will remember 
that Nelson, Wellington, and Lord Melbourne violated the 
popular standard of morality, and yet rendered great ser- 
vices to their country. Americans will remember the same 
of Franklin, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay. A recent 
President of the United States was not above reproach when 
he was elected to the supreme magistracy. There is an 
English statesman of commanding abilities, on one page of 
whose career a blot appears and who for that reason has 
been pursued with unrelenting hatred by canting Pharisees 

those to whom one owes the monstrous and inhuman 

doctrine that an error in a man's life must never be for- 
given, that if he stumble but once he must always remain 
damned* With their narrow bigotry those people arrogate 
to themselves a greater righteousness than that of the 
Christ whose precepts they pretend to follow. To love one 
another, to forget and to forgive, are no maxims of theirs. 
Though the name of the Deity is so constantly on their lips, 
they really seem to be men after the devil's own heart, for 
they play the part of his imps, ever intent on persecution. 

If the world were to reject all the great men who have 
erred, would not the pantheons of the nations be well-nigh 
empty? If it were to reject the works of every writer 
whose life was not absolutely immaculate, what literature 
would be left? Masterpieces of the human mind, writings 
that have wrought an infinity of good, would be cast aside. 
One may remind the reader that a good many English 
authors even of that age of specious respectability, the Vic- 
torian era, were by no means perfect in their private lives. 
In France, no doubt, more laxity has prevailed. Take that 


champion of Christianity, Chateaubriand, and remember the 
many Kaisont of his married life ; take that great deist, 
Victor Hugo, also a married man, and with no such excuse 
as Chateaubriand and Zola may have had, and remember his 
long connection with Madame Juliette Drouet* And as ex- 
amples of moral laxity among men outside the matrimonial 
pale, take Alfred de Musset and both the Dumas, partic- 
ularly the elder. Old Parisians, like the writer, will re- 
member the day in or about 1869 when even the 
boulevards were scandalised by the sight which confronted 
one and all in the windows of every shop where photographs 
were sold. There was the portrait of the prince of roman- 
cers with Adah Isaacs Menken, the circus-rider, seated, in 
her fleshings, on his knees, her arms cast lovingly about his 
neck. Happily in the afternoon the son appeared upon the 
scene and carried off all such photographs that he could 
find, and thereupon Paris* which had been laughing a porno- 
graphic laugh, applauded him, recalling the story of Japhet 
and his father Noah. 

But it is not only men who have thrust the moral law 
aside. The lives of George Eliot and others are known to 
us. They were as nothing beside that of George Sand, who 
in the matter of her private life was perhaps the nearest 
approach to Byron to be found among female writers* She 
passed from Baron Dudevant, her husband, to Jules Sandeau, 
then to M^rimfe, then to Musset, then to Pagello, then to 
Michel de Bourges, then to Pierre Leroux, then to Chopin, 
and at last to Manceau, the engraver, those passions being 
interspersed with platonic interludes with Lamennais and 
Liszt Yet Emerson, " one of the purest of men, dwelt on 
the rare and beautiful sentiment that runs through George 


Sand's ' Consuelo.' And who can deny the evidence of keen 
politick insight, lofty ideas, and pure morality in the 
writings of Mary Wollstoneeraft, Frances Wright, and 
George Eliot ? " * People still read " Consuelo;' even as they 
read " Les Trois Mousquetaires." They also read w Les Con- 
templations " and even dip into "Le G^nie du Christian- 
isme." They ostracise none of the great write,rs because 
there was error in their lives. Besides, it must be acknow- 
ledged as true that a counsel of perfection, or what we regard 
as perfection from our social standpoint, may well come from 
the imperfect. In fact it could not be otherwise, since we 
are all imperfect in one or another way. 

Thus to reject Zola's books and his teaching on the 
ground that there came a lapse in his life after fifty years 
of strenuous endeavour would be ridiculous, for it would 
entail the rejection of hundreds of others. The subject may 
be dismissed, then, without further comment from the moral 
point of view. Undoubtedly it will always be a source of 
regret to Zola's friends that this happened, even though it 
satisfied the great craving of his life. In spite of all our 
knowledge of human imperfection we always try to picture 
an ideal being, and we sorrow when the flaw in our ideal is 
discovered, even though reason tells us that we ought to 
have been prepared for it. 

That the occurrences referred to caused great perturbation 
in Zola's life goes without saying ; and as, about this time or 
soon afterwards, some change appeared in his writings, a 
certain co-relation between that change and his domestic 
troubles might be suspected. But beyond what is apparent 
in parts of u Le Docteur Pascal," and much later in " F^con- 

1 " Westminster Keview," January, 1891, " Patriotism and Chastity," p. 2. 


f> and " Travail, 1 * Zola's writings show no trace of the 
passing storm* It was assumed by some critics, after the 
completion of the Eougon-Macquart novels, that "a new 
Zola " had arisen, the man who wrote ** Lourdes," " Borne," and 
" Paris * being, said they, evidently very different from the 
one who had penned " Nana," "Pofc-Bouille, JI and " La Terre." 
It was even asserted that this novelist who had been so 
obscene was becoming quite moral, at least for a man with 
such shocking antecedents. But the inanity of that conten- 
tion is demonstrated by the facts of the case, The so-called 
obscene books were written by one who led a life of the 
most rigid personal rectitude, whereas the later volumes, 
which were received far more favourably, were the work of 
one whom passion had conquered. That should suffice to 
show how worthless is a certain Mnd of criticism. More- 
over, any change that was noticed in Zola's writings was in 
one respect more apparent than real. In some of his books 
he had set down horrible and loathsome things because he 
had found them involved in his subject Subsequently, 
being confronted by less mire, he naturally gave it less 
prominence. At the same time "Le Docteur Pascal" 
certainly marked a new departure in his manner. In his 
previous works, as we have remarked before, he had 
sunk his personality and had never preached. In "Le 
Docteur Pascal" he began to do so, and this gradually 
became a habit with Mm. The reason is not far to seek. 
For more than twenty years the critics had constantly said 
to him: "If you must show the vileness of life, you should 
at least point the moral. You should deplore such terrible 
things, denounce them, thunder at them in your pages.** 
Eemarks of that kind having been repeated hundreds of 


times. It Is not surprising that Zola, who had long felt 
annoyed at seeing his books misinterpreted, should have 
ended by complying with the clamour. Curiously enough, 
however, the very critics who had called on him for moral 
ejaculations, who had begged for sermons, then became 
mightily indignant. "This man," they said, "has no Imagi- 
nation left ; he does nothing but preach, his books are as dull 
as ditch water. After all, we liked 'Nana 1 better." Such 
was the result of Zola's change of manner, a result which 
might have been foreseen. 

After his departure from England in 1893, the present 
writer remained without news of him for some weeks; 
but in November he wrote that he had been ill and unable 
to attend to anything: the fact being that this was a 
critical time in connection with his domestic affairs. 
Nevertheless he gave some attention to an opera which 
his friend M, Alfred Bruneau based on "L'Attaque du 
Moulin," the libretto being partly the work of M. Louis 
Gallet and partly that of Zola himself. The first per- 
formance took place at the Op^ra Comique, then under 
M. Carvalho's management, on November 23, with a result 
gratifying to all concerned; and Zola afterwards turned 
to the writing of his novel, " Lourdes/' which he intended 
to make the first of three volumes to be called " Les Trois 
Villes," that is, Lourdes, Rome, and Paris. 

The writing of those works was Inspired by the trend of 
French literature and also of opinion in France at that 
time. A few years previously, on being interviewed on the 
question whether Naturalism were an expiring school or 
not, Zola had laughingly answered in the negative, 1 Never- 

l "EnqnSte sur Involution Litt&raire," by Julea Huret, Paris, 1891. 


theless be had observed the rise of the Symbolist, Occultist, 
and Decadent schools, a wave of returning mysticism, as 
it were, which, as he had remarked in an address to the 
Paris students, was invading art as well as literature. Ko 
little balderdash was being written about the alleged bank- 
ruptcy of science, Rome was coquetting with the Republic, 
there was much talk of a new Catholicism adapted to the 
modern world, the clergy were showing extreme activity, and 
a good many unimrsitaires and normaliens, among whom 
the Voltairean spirit had formerly predominated, seemed 
won over to the Church's side and anxious to co-operate 
with it in securing the return of France to the fold, as if, 
indeed, agnosticism had been carried too far and must now 
be checked. The Lourdes and similar pilgrimages repre- 
sented a notable phase of the agitation, and Zola, who had 
attended them two years running as a spectator, found in 
them some illustration of the first of the Christian virtues, 
Faith, It thereupon occurred to him that Borne would 
illustrate Hope, for it was in her and in her pontiff, Leo 
XIII, that all who desired to see the world reconquered by 
a rejuvenated Catholicism set their hopes. Finally Paris 
would afford abundant illustration of Charity in its various 
senses. Now the question whether religion might flourish 
anew in France depended, at least largely, on the practice 
of the aforesaid virtues and the light in which they were 
regarded by the community at large. Was the faith of 
Lourdes justified, was any real hope to be found in Rome, 
was the charity of Paris adequate or not ? Zola returned a 
negative answer to all those questions; and at an early 
stage of the writing of " Les Trois Villes " he resolved to sup- 
plement this series by a further one which would enunciate 


the principles in wMch he himself believed, that is. Fruits 
fulness, Work, Trath, and Justice, all springing from the 
fundamental basis of Love. 

** Lourdes f * gave Mm occupation throughout the winter of 
1893-1894. It appeared first in the "Gil-Bias" which paid 
fifty thousand francs for the serial rights, and early in the 
autumn of 1894 it was issued as a volume, 1 whereupon a 
prelate of the papal household, a certain Monseigneur Ri- 
card, vicar-general of the diocese of Air, in Provence, arose 
to answer Zola, which he did in a very blundering way.* 
The fathers of the Lourdes grotto also attempted some di- 
rect denials of Zola's accusations of greed and imposture, 
and being all powerful in the town prevented the sale of 
the book there, while as a crowning stroke of condemnation 
it was deferred to Rome and promptly placed, like some of 
Zola*s previous works, in the famous " Indez librorum Pro- 
hibitorum." Once again, also, abusive letters rained upon 
the author, some emanating from deluded believers in the 
Lourdes miracles, and others from angry priests and monks. 
Several of those correspondents interlarded their effusions 
with the language of the gutter, while others contented 
themselves with briefly cursing the man who presumed to 
doubt the sanctity of the unfortunate Bernadette, and the 
virtues of the spring which the Assumptionist Fathers 
had turned into a river of gold. That money was used in 
part for the purpose of subsidising Leo XIII, but the bulk 
was employed in fighting the French Republic with the 

1 "Lourdes," Paris, Gharpentier, 1894, ISmo, 598 pages. Seventy thou- 
sand copies sold on publication ; one hundred and fifty-fourth, thousand in 

a "La Yraie Bernadette de Lourdes," Paris, 1894. 


object of restoring a monarchy under which the Church, and 
particularly its monks, would have been all powerful. 

Soon after ** Lourdes ** was finished Zola turned to u Rome,** 
which necessitated a great deal of study. He was immersed 
in it when there came an incident fraught with grave future 
consequences for Prance. An artillery captain named 
Alfred Dreyfus, attached to the General Staff of the army, 
was arrested on a charge of communicating military secrets 
to the German embassy. The arrest took place on October 
15, 1894, but did not become known until the end of the 
month, when it was divulged by two newspapers, " La Libre 
Parole " and " L'Eclair." Zola gave little or no heed to it, for 
quitting his books and papers he was at that very moment 
preparing for a visit to Rome, which he had projected for 
some time past 

About the middle of October he had told Vizetelly, who 
was then with him at M4dan, that he had some hope 
the Pope would receive him, and that he certainly intended 
to apply for an audience. Vizetelly gave publicity to this 
statement, which was quoted on all sides. But almost im- 
mediately afterwards, Vizetelly having returned to England, 
Zola on talking the matter over with some friends found that 
no audience with the Pope was possible. The reason was 
simple enough. "Lourdes," "La Faute de I'AbbS Mouret," 
and several other volumes of his writings just like the 
novels of Dumas pfoe, that u accursed Garibaldian " were 
in the "Index," and accordingly, before even applying for an 
audience, he would have to withdraw and annihilate those 
books so far as lay in his power, and make a full submis- 
sion to Holy Church. 

Such were the facts, A little investigation of the sub- 


ject showed peremptorily that the popes made ii an inflex- 
ible rale to receive no authors whose writings figured among 
the prohibited books unless and until those authors had with- 
drawn their writings and submitted. AbW Alfred Loisy, 
the author of *' La Question Biblique ** and * L'Evaagile et 
FEglise," has of more recent times discovered the prod- 
dure to be such as is here stated. He, like Zola's AbW 
Pierre Froment, repaired to Rome to plead his cause, but 
though cardinals may have received him, he was not al- 
lowed to approach the Pope. Zola, in his " Rome," used a 
novelist's license when he brought AbW Pierre face to face 
with Leo XIII ; and all readers of the book are aware that 
the interview is pictured as a secret one, obtained by surrep- 
titious means, such as Zola could never have employed. 
Had he asked for an audience he must have done so 
through the usual channel, that of the French embassy to 
the Vatican ; and we have before us that embassy's express 
statement that no such application was ever made. Thus, 
contrary to the assertions which went the round of the 
world's press, Zola did not ask to see the Pope, and the 
Pope did not have occasion to refuse him. 

Leaving Paris at the end of October, he remained in 
Rome till December 15. He applied for an audience at the 
Quirinal, and was received with a gracious cordiality by 
King Umberto. Both the French ambassador to the Italian 
court and the ambassador to the Vatican placed themselves 
at his disposal, and furnished him either personally or 
through their attaches with a quantity of information. 
Some of the Italian ministers took a similar course. He 
was welcomed, too, in several drawing-rooms. M. Hubert, the 
great French painter, accompanied him on his visits to the 


Palatine, the Sistine Chapel, the rianu of Raffaelle, and 
the Vatican Museum. Signer Bernabei, director-general of 
the excavations, accompanied him on other occasions, and 
supplied him with a quantity of notes* As for the foolish 
tale that he hribed Vatican servants for information, a tale 
which went the round of the press, it was purely imaginative. 
With two ambassadors, half a dozen attacMs, and a score of 
prominent Italian officials at his disposal, Zola had no need 
to apply to any servants whatever. 

On quitting Rome he betook himself to Venice and 
Brescia with the object of visiting the Italian members 
of his family, the Venetian Petrapolis and Frattas, and 
particularly his cousin, Carlo Zola, then a judge of the 
Brescian Appeal Court Venice gave him a public recep- 
tion, and at Brescia his cousin greeted him with open arms. 
Unfortunately, though the novelist, assisted by his know- 
ledge of Latin and Provencal, was able to read Italian fairly 
accurately, he could not speak it; and as on the other 
hand the judge knew no French, an interpreter had to be 
provided. In spite of this drawback the intercourse was 
very pleasant, and when after a sojourn of some days at 
Brescia Zola set out on his journey to Paris, he repeatedly 
promised to return. He was never able to do so, but his 
wife, who revisited Italy on more than one occasion sub- 
sequently, took care to keep up the family intercourse 
which had been renewed after the lapse of so many years* 

While Zola was visiting Rome the French military au- 
thorities had been busy with the case of Captain Dreyfus, 
but the latter's court-martial did not begin till December 19, 
that is, about the time of the novelist's return to Paris ; the 
degradation of the unfortunate officer following on January 


5, 1895. Zola, however, was now busy classifying all the 
materials he had brought from Borne and revolving IE his 
mind the tremendous task which lay before him. Thus, 
once again, he gave comparatively little attention to the 
proceedings against Dreyfus. Moreover there was nothing 
in the newspapers to indicate any probability of a miscar- 
riage of justice. Like everybody else, except the members 
of the Dreyfus family, whom he did not know, Zola 
assumed that the convicted officer was guilty, and there- 
upon dismissed the matter from his mind. 

Writing to Vizetelly on January 11, he said that he hoped 
to make a Borne " a work of European interest, and if pos- 
sible he should include in it some account of the wonderful 
progress which the Catholic Church claimed to be effecting 
in Great Britain and the United States of America. He 
hoped the book would be shorter than "Lourdes," and he 
intended to keep it "absolutely chaste, though very pas- 
sionnS, for while Abb4 Froment would be the central figure, 
a very tragic dramepasnonnel would be unfolded beside him." 
However, the historic, descriptive, and controversial parts of 
the work expanded in Zola's hands, and far from " Borne " 
proving shorter than " Lourdes," it exceeded that book in 
length by a hundred and fifty pages. The drame pasnonnel 
which was to have been so prominent a feature, became 
nearly lost among the surrounding matter, so that by the 
time the work was finished little suggested that it was in- 
tended to be a novel At the same time it was certainly one 
of the books on which Zola expended most time and study. 
He had begun to examine his subject in the summer of 1894, 
and his proofs were not finally passed for press till the end 
of February, 1896. It may be said that he gave the whole 


of 1895 to the writing of f * Borne." As he had not been 
to remain very long In the Eternal City, Madame Zola 
returned thither to collect further information on various 
points, and a perfect mountain of documents at last encom- 
passed the struggling novelist, who had no little difficulty 
in shaping his course. In December, 1895, the work began 
to appear as ^feuilleton in * Le Journal/* the organ of Zola's 
friend, M. Femand Xau, and about the same time an Eng- 
lish translation was issued by various provincial and colo- 
nial journals, Via&etelly having to perform a tour de force in 
order to ensure this early publication. In the case of 
** Lourdes n he had been assisted by his personal knowledge 
of the spot, and a similar knowledge helped him with 
"Borne," the actual translation of which had to be made 
in about nine weeks in order to meet commercial require- 
ments. That little fact will serve to illustrate the remarks 
made in a previous chapter concerning the imperfection of 
the translations issued under the conditions which nowa- 
days prevail in the publishing world. 

When " Rome " appeared as a volume early in the spring 
of 1896, 1 M. Gaston Deschamps, writing in "Le Temps/* 
roundly accused Zola of plagiarism, and it is certain that 
here and there "Borne" contained sentences taken from 
Firmin Didot's publication, " Le Vatican/' and Gaston Bois- 
sier's " Promenades archdologiques." Zola, on being accused, 
replied in " Le Figaro " to the effect that when he was writ- 
ing a book he invariably consulted every available work 

i "Borne," Paris, Charpentier and Fasquelle, 1896, 18mo, 751 pages. 
One hundredth thousand on sale in 1898 ; one hundred and sixth thousand 
in 1903. In the case of this book and subsequent ones, the sales from 1897 
onward were largely affected by the unpopularity which Zola reaped from his 
participation in the Dreyfus case. 


on his subject. He of his 

novels in review, mentioning the by which 

useful to him, aad also naming the politicians, 
merchants, scientists, lawyers, architects, and others who 
had provided him with detailed memoranda on various 
points. For instance Jules Ferry had given him some 
Information about the Haussmannization of Paris for " La 
Guide/ 1 M. Chauchard, the director of the " Grands Maga- 
slns du Louvre/ 1 had largely assisted Mm with u Au Bon- 
heur des Dames/* M. Edmond Perrier, the scientist, had 
helped him with the passages about seaweed and bromide 
of potassium in " La Joie de Vivre," M. Frantz-Jourdain, the 
eminent architect, had constantly befriended him in archi- 
tectural matters, M. Henri C6ard had supplied Mm with 
notes on music, and M. Thy^baut with consultations on 
points of law, while the theory of an " elixir of life," em- 
bodied in " Le Docteur Pascal," had been built for him by 
his friend Dr. Maurice de Fleury. Indeed Zola claimed 
that he had never discussed a scientific question or written 
about an illness in his books without first taking the opin- 
ion of scientists and medical men. But he claimed that he 
had assimilated, adapted, and in a sense transmuted all the 
information he had derived from persons and books. As 
for "Kome" he was charged with having borrowed some 
sentences from two or three well-known works, but, in fact, 
he had consulted some scores of volumes, the titles of many 
of which he gave. Briefly, he pictured himself as an archi- 
tect or a sculptor, and his materials as building stones or 
modelling clay ; suggesting also the example of those mas- 
ters of the Eenaissance who employed a swarm of workers 
to prepare their paints, their " grounds," and so forth. And 


he contended that what he had done was perfectly legiti- 
mate, the only question being whether he had so used his 
materials as to produce a substantial, harmonious result, and 
had infused into it the spirit of life. " If it were usual," he 
added, lf to indicate one's authorities in a novel, I would 
willingly stud the bottom of my pages with foot-notes. And 
if a line from a fellow-writer remains intact in one of my 
pages, this simply proves that I am not hypocrite enough to 
hide my borrowing, which it would be so easy to conceal.'* 

In spite of that last remark there is reason to believe that, 
in the case of "Rome," Zola had a difficulty in wrestling 
with his mountain of " notes," Mid that when confronted by 
some memorandum made many months previously, he some- 
times imagined its phraseology to be his own and not the 
suctual language of one of his authorities. It seems qiiite 
likely that if the latter had been, patent to Mm he would 
have paraphrased the memorandum. With respect to the 
actual principle for which he contended it is obvious that 
the novelist possessed of any conscientiousness ought often 
to read up certain subjects and consult a variety of author- 
ities. It is indeed a pity that the practice is not followed 
more generally, for one would then be spared the thousands 
of blunders in elementary questions of law, science, history, 
precedence, titles, etc., which appear in so much contem- 
porary fiction. 

Zola's defence with respect to " Rome " will be found in 
a volume called "Nouvelle Canipagne," 1 which contains a 
number of articles he contributed to " Le Figaro " in 1896. 
They are of all sorts. The first, on the opportunism of Leo 
XIII, foreshadows the denunciation of the Roman Catholic 

* "KouYeHe Campagne," Paris, E. Fasquelle, 1897, 18mo, 286 pages. 

Photo by V. R. Vizeteily 

Ernilc Zola writing "Fecondite" at Wakon-on-Thames, 1898 


Church which eventually appeared in " Y4rit " ; while an- 
other, called "Depopulation," contains the germ of "Fcon- 
dit&" There are various papers on the professional interests 
of literary men ; a couple on Zola's love of animals, which was 
very marked throughout his life ; and an incisive one, called 
" The Toad/* in which he railed at the people who sent him 
abusive letters and the newspaper men who pursued him with 
pinpricks. Then, in a paper on a Parisian clairvoyante, a cer- 
tain Mademoiselle Couesdon, who pretended to be in direct 
communication with the archangel Gabriel, he commented on 
the childishness of the imposture and deplored the senseless 
eagerness with which people imagined they would discover 
the secrets of the invisible by consulting a semi-hysterical 
girl. At the same time he admitted that such was the trend 
of the modern mind; and, after all, as people could only 
satisfy their yearnings in this way, one must let them do so, 
said he, pending the time when science would nourish the 
world with the bread of truth. However, the most notable 
article in the volume was certainly the one entitled "For 
the Jews," in which for the first time Zola gave expression 
to his surprise and disgust at the progress of anti-Semitism 
in France. In that campaign, the Dreyfus case, which at 
first had been merely an incident, was soon to become 
everything, for Colonel Picquart was now (July, 1896) 
making important discoveries which convinced him of the 
innocence of Dreyfus and the guilt of Esterhazy. That was 
as yet unknown to Zola, who did not begin to intervene 
until late in the autumn of the following year. Thus, in 
protesting against'the anti-Jewish agitation which had been 
growing and spreading for some years past, he treated the 
question from a general point of view without mentioning 



the unhappy prisoner of Devil's Island. And here one may 
well call a halt to consider the state of affairs which had 
prompted 'Zola to raise his voice on behalf of a community 
with which he had no connection whatever, either racial or 
religious, but which he defended by virtue entirely of the 
guiding principles of his life, the principles of truth and 



The growth of anti-Semitism in France The Jews in Paris The Union 
Generale Drumont, "La France Juive," and "La Libre Parole" 
Clerical plotting Accusations against the Jews Anti-Semitism in 
the army Zola begins his novel " Paris " His idea of a novel on ballet 
girls "Messidor" Facts and documents concerning Dreyfus sub- 
mitted to Zola He resolves to intervene His articles in " Le Figaro " 
His " Letter to Young Men " He is hissed at Daudet's funeral His 
" Letter to France " The Esterhazy court-martial Character of Ester- 
hazy Zola writes his letter " J'Accuse " Some extracts from it Its 
reception Riots in the provinces and Algeria Incidents of the turmoil 
in Paris Zola prosecuted Foreign sympathy His counsel, Maitre 
Labori. Clericals and Nationalists at work The trial at the Paris 
Assize Court A few of the facts it elicited Zola mobbed His body- 
guard Madame Zola at the trial Zola's declaration to the jury A 
glance at Labori* s great speech Reception of the verdict Publication 
of " Paris " Zola's conviction quashed New proceedings First trial 
at Versailles Incidents of the campaign The handwriting experts 
secure judgment against Zola Zola's letter to M. Brisson Second 
trial at Versailles Zola leaves for London His sojourn in England 
His English homes Some of his notes to Vizetelly Death of his pet 
dog His visitors Incidents in France Zola's return to Paris His 
manifesto " Justice " Return of Dreyfus to France The Rennes court- 
martial Zola's manifesto "The Fifth Act" His letter to Madame 
Dreyfus Dreyfus pardoned " Fe*condite " published Zola's trial 
repeatedly postponed Zola's protests against the Amnesty His sacri- 
fices for the cause The medal struck in his honour. 

THE emancipation of the French Jews dates from the 
great Eevolution. At the assembling of the States-General 
in 1789 they entered on a brief and victorious struggle, in 
which their chief ally, curiously enough, was a Catholic 


priest, the famous Abbd Gr^goire. From that period until 
the Third Republic, established in 1870, there was never, it 
would seem, any really considerable Jewish question in 
France. A little trouble occurred in the time of the first 
Napoleon. Some Jews were certainly mixed up in the 
financial scandals of Louis Philippe's reign, and Toussenel's 
work, " Les Juifs, Rois de I'Spoque," was the result. Ras- 
cality was occasionally manifested also by some of the Jews 
who became prominent in finance during the Second Em- 
pire ; but the presence of the Jews generally, in the midst 
of the community, excited no alarm. After the war of 
1870, however, the number of Jews in France increased 
considerably, the new arrivals being chiefly of German, 
Austrian, Swiss, or Alsatian nationality. Most of them 
settled in Paris, where they engaged in a variety of profes- 
sions and avocations, showing themselves, as a rule, shrewd, 
hard-working, and orderly members of society. About the 
same time some thousands of French Jews participating 
in a movement which characterised the earlier years of 
the Third Republic, the so-called conquest of northern by 
southern France also flocked to the capital. "Le Midi 
monte" was in those days a favourite saying, echoed by 
Alphonse Daudet in his "Numa Roumestan" with refer- 
ence to all the Gascons and Provengals who then invaded 
Paris and came to the front there in politics, art, literature, 
and social life. The descendants of the Spanish and Portu- 
guese Jews, who in the sixteenth century had settled in 
southern France, at Bordeaux, Avignon, and other cities, 
joined in the great migration to the capital, and thus ten years 
after the Franco-German war there were three or four times 
as many Jews in Paris as there had been previously. 


But they were peaceable citizens and for the most part 
stanch Republicans. They remembered that the Revolu- 
tion had given them emancipation, and they did not desire 
the restoration of any monarchy which might take it from 
them, or of any empire with an adventurous policy which 
might plunge the country into war and interfere with their 
avocations. Many of them, no doubt, had a comparatively 
low ideal in view, that of quietly prospering in their business ; 
but an element of that kind is desirable in a community 
like that of Paris, which numbers many firebrands in its 
midst. Besides, it is not too much to say that, on more 
than one occasion, the Jews of Paris helped to save the 
Republic by throwing all their influence into the balance 
on the side of law and order, as, for instance, during the 
Boulangist turmoil. 

However, for some years previous to that agitation, an anti- 
Jewish feeling had been growing up in Paris. The ultra- 
Catholics, the Royalists, and other malcontents resented the 
spread of Jewish influence ; and two financiers, named Bon- 
toux and F4der, availed themselves of that disposition to 
found a great Christian Bank, the Union G6ndrale, which, it 
was hoped, would deprive the Jewish and also the Protes- 
tant financiers of a large proportion of their customers. 
Pope Leo XIII blessed that bank, and invested in it some 
millions of francs the fruits of Peter's pence which the 
pious Bontoux promised to restore to him fourfold. But 
the director of the Union G^n&rale unluckily fell out with 
a great financier, M. Lebaudy, the millionaire sugar refiner, 
who though he was nominally a Catholic cared nothing for 
the advancement of the Church or of the French aristocracy, 
which had invested large sums of money in the Bontoux 


bank. At last, after some prodigious Bourse gambling, 
such as Zola described in "L* Argent," the Union Gn&- 
rale was smashed by M. Lebaudy, who raked in by far 
the greater part of the spoils. 

Undoubtedly there were some Jewish and also Protes- 
tant financiers with him, but it was he who engineered the 
work of destruction which ruined several members of 
the French aristocracy, and swallowed up the savings of 
many good Catholics in modest circumstances who had 
foolishly taken financial advice from their priests. Nine out 
of ten attributed the disaster to the Jews exclusively, and it 
was virtually from that hour that people began to talk of 
the so-called Jewish question. It was discussed at first in 
the Royalist and Clerical newspapers, which pictured the 
Israelites as the great enemies of those who wished to 
restore France to her ancient kings and her ancient faith. 
In another way the cry was taken up by some of the 
Radicals and Socialists opposed to Gambetta, in whose 
entourage several Jews figured prominently. These men, 
it was said, had nobbled the ex-dictator and were preying 
upon France. Thus the "question" gradually spread, 
assisted largely by the many unpopular tergiversations 
of the Opportunist party, first in Gambetta's time, and then 
over a term of years, some folk detecting the hand of the 
Jews, precisely as others detected that of the Jesuits, in 
everything that happened. 

Moreover books were written on the question. Under 
the title of " Les Rois de la R&publique," Toussenel's forgotten 
work was hashed up for popular consumption; and about 
the time when General Boulanger was coming to the front 
(1886), there appeared a book called "La France Juive," 


written by a certain Bdouard Drumont, a scholarly man, 
wlio had long dabbled in antiquarian research. It so hap- 
pened that nature had given Drumont a characteristically 
Jewish face, while his slovenly habits had imparted to him 
much of the appearance of one of those "old clo'" men, 
who, forty or fifty years ago, still perambulated the streets 
of London and Paris. He has repeatedly disclaimed, how- 
ever, all connection with Jewry ; and his personal appear- 
ance may therefore be merely some spiteful freak on the 
part of nature, which has cast him in the very mould of 
some of those whom he loathes and denounces. 

" La France Juive, " which as an attack on the so-called 
chosen race has never been surpassed in virulence and men- 
dacity, created an uproar in some political and financial 
circles ; but it did not at first make much impression on the 
general public. The Panama scandals began, however ; mil- 
lions of money were lost, the victims often being needy 
people ; and helped by the circumstance that three or four of 
the principal culprits in those affairs were unquestionably 
Jews, and by the reissue of large portions of " La Trance 
Juive" in"Le Petit Journal," Drumont and his writings 
achieved great notoriety. A newspaper established by him, 
"La Libre Parole," became the recognised organ of anti- 
Semitism in Paris ; and as this journal was financed by a 
certain M. Odelin, the administrator of the famous Jesuit 
school in the Rue des Postes, one may conclude that at an 
early stage at least some part of the French clergy gave 
support to the agitation ; for the position of M. Odelin as 
a mere intermediary, or man of straw, was notorious. l 

1 It was proved, in a court of justice, during the proceedings taken by 
the French government against the Assumptionist Fathers. 


As time elapsed the attitude of the Clericals became yet 
more pronounced. Pope Leo XIII made advances to the 
French Republic. From his standpoint they may have 
been sincere ; but in any case they tended to the supremacy 
of the Roman Catholic Church in France. On their side, 
the French Reactionaries, clergy and religious orders as well 
as laymen, could not give any frank and loyal support to 
the papal policy such as it was publicly stated to be, for it 
was foreign to their ideas, sympathies, and aspirations. If 
they made some outward show of acquiescence, this was 
only with the secret object of obtaining the mastery by 
feigning friendship and afterwards destroying the Repub- 
lican regime. But the Republic of 1848 was not forgotten ; 
the clergy had then adhered to the new order of things the 
better to strangle it ; and thus, in spite of all the fair words 
of Leo XIII and the protestations of those who professed 
that they had rallied to the Republic in all sincerity, the 
more clear-sighted Republicans, like the advanced Radicals 
and the Socialists, remained full of distrust Some years 
elapsed before matters really took shape. At first, indeed, 
the Pope merely coquetted with the Republic, reserving a 
formal pronouncement of his adhesion until an apparently 
decisive moment, and the clergy worked somewhat stealthily, 
assisted by those university men and others who abetted or 
accepted the retour offensif of mysticism in literature. Then, 
as time went by, the residue of the Boulangist party raised 
its head to propound various theories of Nationalism, Milita- 
rism, and anti-Parliamentarism, to the last of which the 
Panama scandals lent some force. For many years, un- 
doubtedly, the trend of the masses had been towards free 
thought, but the sentiments of Nationalism and Chauvinisme 


appealed to many. The clergy had been striving to win 
France back to the fold by such devices as the Sacred Heart 
of Jesus, the Lourdes miracles, and the money-boxes of 
Saint Antony, but whatever success might be achieved by 
those means here and there, it was not great enough to 
satisfy priestly aspirations. To all appearance there was not 
sufficient faith left among the masses for supernatural con- 
siderations to influence them in the required degree. Only 
earthly matters seemed to interest them, and it followed, 
therefore, that these must be put to use. Thus the clergy 
aided, abetted, and finally slipped into the Nationalist move- 
ment, which seemed the one most likely to yield the desired 

It has been indicated that the great bulk of Jewish influ- 
ence had hitherto been cast on the side of the Eepublic ; and 
thus, although the Freemasons and the Protestants were 
also regarded as enemies by the Clericals, it was felt that 
they might be dealt with later, and that the first thing, the 
principal thing, was to destroy the power of the Jews. The 
ground, then, was gradually prepared for a campaign. 
Helped by the Panama scandals, * La Libre Parole," follow- 
ing " La France Juive," neglected no opportunity to traduce 
the Jews generally. 1 The Nationalist journals joined in 
the outcry, pointing out that many of the Jews domiciled in 
France bore German names, and arguing that, although 
they often asserted they were Alsatians, the assertion was 
usually a lie. In some instances, perhaps, they conspired 
with foreign Jews ; and at all events they formed an im- 

1 It was for a while opposed by a journal entitled "La Vraie Parole," 
established by Dr. Singer, subsequently the initiator of the well-known 
"Jewish Encyclopaedia." As time elapsed " La Libre Parole " was reinforced 
by another scurrilous organ, * * L'Anti-Juif." 


perium in imperio, clinging to their own kith and kin, their 
particular rites and usages, leading, as it were, a life 
apart from the rest of the community. Briefly, they were 
not Frenchmen, and were therefore not entitled to a French- 
man's rights. 

As a matter of fact, many thousands of the Jews domiciled 
in Paris did not adhere strictly to Jewish practices. In the 
financial world several prominent families had not only 
become Catholic, but had contracted matrimonial alliances 
with the French aristocracy ; while the whole tendency of 
those whom one may call the Boulevardian Jews, the 
members of the liberal professions, the authors, journalists, 
artists, and actors, was towards free thought and an inter- 
mingling with the bulk of the community. 1 In fact, in the 
present writer's opinion, before the more violent explosion of 
anti-Semitism in France, Paris was the city where one saw 
most sign of a blending of the Jews with the rest of the 
population a very slow and gradual blending, no doubt, 
but none the less evident to careful observers. 

But that was not taken into account by the Clerical and 
the Nationalist leaders in the campaign which both parties 
carried on, not, perhaps, by virtue of any formal alliance, but 
because both desired an effective war-cry which would appeal 
to popular passions and gain them recruits. In the end the 
Nationalists, though they denied it, were generally directed 
by the leaders of the Clerical party, who were men of much 
greater shrewdness and ability than the D4roulfedes, the 
Millevoyes, the Haberts, and the G-uMns, and who thus 
contrived, in an indirect way, to employ the Nationalist 
movement for their own advantage. Both parties had the 
same immediate object in view the destruction of the Ee- 
1 The same may be said of many of the scientists. 


public, such as it existed and thus they could well work 
together ; but the Clerical leaders were resolved that, what- 
ever might be the subsequent form of government, the real 
mastery should belong to Holy Church. Moreover some 
Nationalists were Clericals also. In 1891 Droulde, the 
Nationalist chief, expressly accused the Jews of trying to 
" dechristianise " France; and in the following year a 
journal belonging to Deputy Delahaye, another Nationalist, 
fabricated a charge of " ritual murder," perpetrated, it was 
alleged, at Chatellerault. A little later the Marquis de 
Mor&s, Clerical, Nationalist, and anti-Semite all in one, in- 
sulted and challenged a number of Jewish army officers. 
" La Libre Parole " espoused his cause, and a movement to 
prevent Jews from serving as officers slowly set in, leading 
a couple of years later to the Dreyfus case. 

In this connection one may remind the reader that an 
overwhelming proportion of the officers of the French army 
belonged to devout Catholic families, often aristocratic and 
royalist ones, which while thinking that a young man ought 
not to serve the government of the Eepublic in any political 
or administrative post were willing that he should accept a 
diplomatic appointment or join the army as an officer, for in 
such cases it was really France that he served, and not the 
hateful Eepublican regime. That distinction had been drawn 
already in MacMahon's time and was adhered to for many 
years, indeed until the clergy saw how advisable it was for 
their proteges to accept other public functions in order to 
fight the influence of the Jews and the Freemasons in vari- 
ous State departments. Thus many young men, trained by 
the Jesuits and others, were helped as far as possible into 
official positions without being restricted as previously to 


the diplomatic service and the army. Nevertheless, the last 
remained the favourite carribre among young aristocrats as 
well as among many young men of the upper bourgeoisie ; 
and the great majority of these having been educated by 
ecclesiastics were, without doubt, prejudiced against the 
young Jews whom the regulations admitted among them. 
The prejudice was not, however, entirely religious, it was 
also a racial and a caste prejudice among those who be- 
longed more or less to the old noblesse, and it was often in 
a sense patriotic, being inspired by a kind of distrust of 
Jewish rectitude. Indeed, even Jewish courage was ques- 
tioned by some who forgot, or were not aware, that no little 
Jewish blood had flowed in the veins of such great fighters 
as Massdna, Soult, and Bernadotte. 

The agitation against the French Jews had been growing 
slowly, then, for several years. An explosion was bound to 
come in any case, particularly as, with the exception of the 
one ministry which put down Greneral Boulanger, the vari- 
ous French administrations over a lengthy period were 
deplorably weak. In the end the Dreyfus case became the 
battlefield of the parties which were contending for mastery. 
The outcry against the Jews was prompted, even among the 
Clericals, less by genuine religious motives than by political 
ones. The Jews were the pretext. Behind the onslaught 
on them, one on the Republic was being engineered. One 
may add that the anti-Semitism which arose in France was 
naturally assisted by that which prevailed in Austria and 
in Russia. Moreover, the Russian alliance became in cer- 
tain respects a factor of importance ; and the slumbering 
hatred of Germany on being roused in connection with 
Dreyfus influenced thousands of patriotic people. 


Into the more intricate details of the case the writer 
does not propose to enter. 1 When this hook was first pro- 
jected he had some thought of reviewing a few curious 
points, but since then the victim of the great iniquity has 
applied for the revision of the proceedings at Rennes, and 
the matter is now before the judicial authorities. It is 
therefore best that one should confine oneself to narrating 
what Zola himself did to rescue Dreyfus from the hell 
in which he suffered for so many years just recapitulat- 
ing, as one proceeds, the facts which are essential for a 
proper understanding of Zola's rdle. At the same time one 
must not neglect his literary work, and the more important 
Incidents, which, apart from the Dreyfus case, marked his 
career at this period. 

It has been shown previously that the novelist paid little 
heed to the anti-Semites whom he regarded as more tur- 
bulent than dangerous until 1896, when he campaigned 
in "Le Figaro" and wrote an article entitled "For the 
Jews." He afterwards turned to his novel "Paris," con- 
cerning which he wrote to Vizetelly on December 11, 1896 : 

"My plan is finished, and I am about to begin the book. 
* Paris* will be a novel, full of action, on all the different 'worlds' 
of Paris the political, the intellectual, the society, the working- 
class worlds, etc. There will be no digressions or dissertations, 
but as much life and action as possible. You know that I never 
make promises without keeping them. The story will begin to 
appear in *Le Journal* between October 15 and 31 (1897), and 
will be published as a volume at the end of January, 1898. Try 
to find an English newspaper to publish it, and you may also 

1 For them the reader may be referred to the "Histoire de 1* Affaire 
Dreyfus" a masterpiece of research, literary skill, and acumen which 
M. Joseph Keinach is producing in several volumes* Paris, Fasquelle. 


sound the Americans, telling them that you will supply the most 
lively and interesting book I have yet written." 

About this time Zola also gave some attention to a four- 
act lyrical drama entitled " Messidor," l the music of which 
was composed by his friend M. Alfred Bruneau. 2 This 
work took the novelist to the Grand Opera House, where it 
was to be produced. He attended all the rehearsals, and 
evinced particular interest in the young women of the 
ballet, about whom their appearance, manners, conversa- 
tion, and lives he accumulated a quantity of notes, with 
the object, so he afterwards told Vizetelly, of writing a novel 
about them, a novel which he would probably have called 
"Le Rat/* rats de V Opera being the name under which 
the minor dancers of the house have long been, known in 
Paris. It may be mentioned that a ballet designed for 
expressive character-dancing was a prominent feature of 
"Messidor/' and that success largely depended on its effi- 
cient performance. But the authors found the corps de 
ballet wedded to the stereotyped forms of stage-dancing, 
the customary insipid jetes, pas de chales, entrechats, pirou- 
ettes, and so forth. Either from incapacity or in a spirit of 
obstinacy, the ladies of the opera would not modify their 
methods, and Zola, who had dreamt of revolutionising stage- 
dancing, of infusing into it some of the old Grecian fervour, 
which expressed the various passions so powerfully, was 
greatly disappointed. When " Messidor " was produced on 
February 19, 1897, it achieved little more than a succfo d'es~ 

1 "Messidor" was the tenth, or harvest month, in the calendar of the 
First Republic. 

2 The writer does not know when Zola wrote the libretto of "Messidor " ; 
but it seems likely that he did so in 1894 or 1895, for M. Bruneau must have 
subsequently required considerable time for the music. 


time. The ballet was praised by the critics, who judged it 
from the customary standpoint, but it was not what the 
composer and Zola had desired. Of course, no other result 
was possible. Years would be required to effect a revolu- 
tion in stage-dancing, at least at the Paris Opera House. 

After the production of "Messidor," Zola confined his 
attention to " Paris " for several months, and it was only on 
quitting M^dan for his town residence late in the autumn 
of 1897 that he began to give serious attention to the Drey- 
fus case. The various attempts which both the Dreyfus 
family, through M. Bernard Lazare, and Colonel Picquart, 
influenced by his own discoveries, had made in 1896 to 
bring about a careful inquiry into the whole affair had 
yielded little result; but in 1897 the matter was taken up 
by M. Scheurer-Kestner, a much respected vice-president 
of the Senate, who came to the conclusion that the offence 
for which Dreyfus had been convicted had really been per- 
petrated by Major Walsin-Esterhazy. The latter received 
warning of what was brewing, and about the time when 
Zola moved from M4dan into Paris, as mentioned above, the 
anti-Semitic press, having espoused Esterhazy's cause, was 
again thundering against the Jews. Some of Zola's friends 
interested in the Affair as everybody called it spoke to 
him about it at length. Before long, indeed, several docu- 
ments were shown him at his house, and left a deep impres- 
sion on Ms mind. He had no personal acquaintance with 
the Dreyfus family ; he never saw Madame Dreyfus till she 
appeared in court during his own trial in February, 1898 ; 
and if on a dozen occasions, at the utmost, he met M. 
Mathieu Dreyfus and discussed the case with him, all such 
interviews took place posterior to his intervention. This 


was based on a dispassionate study of the facts and docu- 
ments laid before Mm. He weighed them with his usual 
care, exactly as he weighed the documents he collected for 
his books; and it must not be imagined that the charges 
he eventually formulated were brought in any haphazard 
fashion. Zola's intellect, one may repeat it, was essentially 
systematic, and his judgment of facts and his logical powers 
were exceptionally good. 1 At the time of his trial in Paris 
there were many gaps in his information, undoubtedly, but 
its full extent was not then revealed, owing to the extraor- 
dinary course imparted to the proceedings by the judge and 
the military men. Various facts which were not publicly di- 
vulged until much later were kept back deliberately by the 
novelist's counsel, Maftre Labori, as a matter of strategy, 
and it follows that Zola's action was far less quixotic than 
some people then took it to be. 

It has been assumed occasionally that the novelist's in- 
tervention began with his famous letter, " J'Accuse." That, 
of course, is an error. One day in November, 1897, while 
he was out walking, he met M. Fernand de Rodays, the direc- 
tor of " Le Figaro," and they talked of the Affair together. 
Zola realised that M. de Rodays had arrived at much the 

* "The Westminster Gazette" published on January 16, 1898, a letter 
from the present writer, in which he said, inter alia: "I regard Zola as a 
man of very calm, methodical, judicial mind. He is no ranter, no lover of 
words for words' sake, no fiery enthusiast. ... If ever he "brings forward a 
theory he bases it on a mountain of evidence, and invariably subordinates his 
feelings to his reason. I therefore venture to say that if he has come forward 
in this Dreyfus case it is not because he feels that wrong has been done but 
because he is absolutely convinced of it. Doubtless many of the expressions 
in his recent letter to President Faure have come from his heart, but they 
were in the first place dictated by his reason. It is not for me at the present 
hour to speak of proofs ... but most certainly Zola has not taken up this 
case without what he considers to be abundant proof," 

Photo by E. Zola 

Penn, Oatlands Chase, Surrey 
( Denise, Jacques, Violette Vizetelly ) 

Photo by 6. Zola 

Summerfield, Addlestone, Surrey 


same conclusions as himself, and he thereupon offered to 
write some articles. M. de Rodays assented, and on Novem- 
ber 25 ten days after M. Mathieu Dreyfus had formally 
denounced Major Walsin-Esterhazy as author of the notori- 
ous "bordereau l " Le Figaro " printed a first contribution 
from Zola's pen, an article entitled " M. Scheurer-Kestner." 
On December 1 came a second, " Le Syndicat," which, was 
followed on December 5 by a third, called " Frocks-Verbal." 
Those articles were temperately worded ; they appealed to 
the reader's judgment, and protested in a sober way against 
all attempts to inflame the popular passions. They cer- 
tainly indicated a belief in Dreyfus's innocence, and asked 
for full inquiry ; and on that account they angered the 
readers of "Le Figaro," who, being for the most part 
society people, sympathised with the Jew-baiters. More- 
over the anti-Semitic and Nationalist prints, alarmed to find 
such a capable man as Zola espousing the cause of Dreyfus, 
at once attacked him savagely. He then had to withdraw 
from "Le Figaro," whose director, while adhering to his 
personal opinion in favour of Dreyfus, was unable to with- 
stand the clamour of his readers and shareholders. 

1 For the assistance of the reader who may hare forgotten the details of the 
Dreyfus case one may mention that this bordereau was a kind of covering note, 
giving a list of certain memoranda and docnments on French army matters 
which the writer said he was then forwarding to the person whom, he ad- 
dressed. This person, it has always "been assumed, was the German military 
attache in Paris. At all events it was from his lodgings or from the German 
embassy itself that the bordereau reached the Secret Intelligence Department 
of the French Ministry of War, then directed by Colonel Sandherr, a strong 
anti-Semite, and Major (later Colonel) Henry. The writing of this bor- 
dereau was attributed to Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the only Jewish officer on 
the General Staff of the Army, and he, after a summary inquiry made by 
Major (later Colonel) du Paty de Clam, was arrested on the charge of betraying 
military secrets to a foreign power. Such, briefly, was the origin qf the 



As it seemed doubtful whether any other paper of stand- 
ing would print what Zola might write about the case, and 
as he desired to retain full liberty of action, he decided to 
continue his campaign with pamphlets, and a first was pub- 
lished on December 14. It was called a " Letter to Young 
]\j erL that is the students and others, who at one moment 
ran about the streets shouting " Long live the army ! Down 
with the Jews!" and at another assembled outside the 
homes of M. Scheurer-Kestner and others and hooted them. 
Zola expostulated with these young fellows, pointed out 
the folly and baseness of their conduct, and exhorted them 
to strive for truth, humanity, and justice. He declared, too, 
en passant, that the Chamber of Deputies had just covered 
itself with shame by a vote of censure which it had pre- 
sumed to pass on those whom it accused of " troubling the 
public conscience by an odious campaign," that campaign 
being simply the appeal for truth and equity made by him- 
self and others. 

The pamphlet l stirred up the feelings of those for whom 
it was intended. They resented it, and began to demon- 
strate against Zola himself. Two days later, December 16, 
his good friend and fellow-novelist, Alphonse Daudet, died ; 
and when Zola appeared as one of the pall-bearers at the 
funeral, so angry were the passions of the crowd that the 
respect due to the dead was forgotten, and groans and hisses 
were heard again and again as the cortege took its way 
to the cemetery of P&re-Lachaise. 

1 "Lettre &la Jeunesse," Paris, Fasquelle, 1897, 8vo, 16 pages and cover, 
bearing, "besides the title, the inscription: "Humanite*, Yerite', Justice." 
Price, 10 centimes. The text is reproduced in the volume of Zola's writings 
on the Dreyfus case, entitled "La Ve'rite' en Marche," which also contains 
the " Figaro " articles and most of the letters published in "L'Aurore," etc., 
until Zola ceased to take part in the Affair, 


There, by the graveside, Zola read a pathetic farewell to 
his departed friend and comrade, of whose corpse, in accord- 
ance with usage, he had been one of the watchers a few 
nights previously. His hand shook as he fingered his 
manuscript, and there was poignant emotion in his voice 
when he evoked the memory not only of Daudet, but also 
of those who had gone before, Flaubert and Edmond de 
Goncourt. "They were giants, good giants, artisans of 
truth and beauty," he said ; " and now, great even as they 
were, of equal stature by virtue of the work he accom- 
plished, Daudet has gone to join them in the grave, to 
repose beside them like a brother, in the same glory. We 
were four brothers : three have departed already, I remain 

Doubtless his feelings of loneliness were intensified by 
the groans, the cries he had heard, the ill-disguised hostility 
also of some of the mourners around him. But Zola was a 
stubborn man, great by reason of that very stubbornness. 
No attacks, no insults, no sufferings, could ever turn him 
from any purpose that he resolved upon in the plenitude 
of his intellect, guided by his sense of right and wrong. 
Soon after Daudet's funeral, that is on January 6, 1898, he 
issued another pamphlet, this time a " Letter to France," 1 
in which, after referring to the approaching arraignment of 
Major Walsin-Esterhazy before a court-martial, he pro- 
tested against the violence of the press, and while disclaim- 
ing all idea of insulting the army, pointed out the dangers of 

1 "Lettre & la France," Paris, Fasquelle, 1898, uniform with the u Lettre 
& la Jeunesse." An English translation of these letters and of " J' Accuse," 
and a further letter to General Billot, is published "by John Lane, London 
and New York, under the title of " Zola'a Letters to France." Introduction 
by L. F. Austin. 16mo, xiii-45 pages. 


militarism, the threatening shadow of the sword, which, 
unless France were careful, would lead her to dictatorship. 
Behind all else he showed the Church bent on reviving the- 
ocracy and intolerance. And with respect to the Affair 
itself, after complaining that the public mind had been 
poisoned against those who had resolved to elucidate the 
truth, he pointed out that if Dreyfus had been condemned 
on a document written by another (Esterhazy), whose guilt 
could be proved thereby, a revision of his case would be an 
imperative, logical necessity, for there could not be two per- 
sons condemned for the same crime. Besides, Dreyfus had 
been legally condemned on the "bordereau alone the only 
paper shown to his counsel and even if there were other 
papers which in defiance of the law had been kept secret, 
who could refuse revision if it were proved that the borde- 
reau, the one known, acknowledged document, was from the 
hand of another man ? 

But the French "War Office was determined that the 
authorship of the bordereau should not be brought home to 
Walsin-Esterhazy. General Saussier, Military Governor of 
Paris, one of the few unprejudiced army chiefs of that time, 
had ordered a prosecution, but the investigations were car- 
ried out by the unscrupulous General de Pellieux, behind 
whom was the even more unscrupulous Colonel Henry 
of the Intelligence Bureau, and the acquittal of Esterhazy 
was virtually prearranged. The charge against him 
as preferred by M. Mathieu Dreyfus was that of 
having written, the bordereau for which Alfred Drey- 
fus had been condemned, but at the court-martial of 
January 10 and 11, 1898, that definite accusation was never 
considered. The proceedings were turned against another 


officer, the gallant Colonel Picquart, who had been the first to 
discover indications of Esterhazy's guilt. For the rest, there 
was a deal of nonsense about a " veiled lady " and a " lib- 
erating document " ; and at last Walsin-Esterhazy was 
unanimously acquitted. 

He was, one may remind the reader, an illegitimate 
descendant of a famous Hungarian house, by reason of 
which connection he had assumed the title of Count. Bold, 
clever, cunning, unscrupulous, a thorough spendthrift, he 
had squandered his means and much of his wife's, also, in 
the gambling hells of Paris. He had begun his military 
career as a Papal Zouave. As a French soldier he was 
known to have been guilty of malversation in Algeria and 
to have forged certificates of his own exploits. He had 
written infamous letters about the French army to a 
relative, Madame de Boulancy. He had repeatedly found 
himself in desperate straits financially and had then bor- 
rowed money of Jews whom he had never repaid. He 
had practically deserted his wife and lived with a woman 
known as Mademoiselle Pays, who had been an halituee 
of the notorious Parisian dancing saloon, the Moulin- 
Rouge. She was certainly devoted to him, and he did 
not hesitate to eat her bread. There is nowadays no 
doubt at all that he and none other perpetrated the crimes 
for which Dreyfus had been sentenced. He had insulted 
and jeered at France in his private letters, and he had sold 
such of her military secrets as he could discover, not once 
nor twice, but repeatedly, over a considerable period, to 
Colonel von Schwarzkoppen, the German military attachi 
in Paris, and perhaps to Colonel Panizzardi, the Italian, and 
Colonel Schneider, the Austrian attache, also. His guilt 


with respect to the lordweau was not perhaps absolutely 
established at the time of his acquittal, but his frauds and 
his general laxity of life were well known even then. Yet 
he was acclaimed as the " martyr of the Jews/ 1 cheered by 
a delirious crowd of officers and anti-Semites, embraced 
in public by young Prince Henri d'Orldans as though he 
were the very embodiment of the national honour. And 
on the morrow the gallant Colonel Picquart, who had striven 
to prove his unworthiness, was arrested and imprisoned 
in the fortress of Mont Val^rien. 

Zola now fully realised that the military authorities were 
resolved on a denial of justice. They dreaded an exposure 
of their blunders, their lies, and their illegal practices at the 
time of the conviction of Dreyfus. No ordinary means 
could bring about a manifestation of the truth. There re- 
mained " the sacred right of insurrection," which was not to 
be exercised lightly, for only in a great extremity could it 
be justifiably put to use. In Zola's opinion such an ex- 
tremity had arrived. The sole means of eliciting the truth 
lay in carrying the Affair from the military tribunals to a 
civil court of justice, where some equity might perhaps be 
found ; but this was only to be achieved by a virtually revo- 
lutionary method. Zola felt he must employ such a method. 
He could not hesitate. The call of truth and justice was too 
imperative, At once, therefore, directly he heard of the 
acquittal of Esterhazy, telling nobody but his wife of his 
intention, Zola drew up an open letter to M. F41ix Faure, 
the President of the Republic. It was speedily despatched 
to the printing firm which had already printed the " Lettre 
k la Jeunesse" and the "Lettre k la France," the intention 
being to publish it as a pamphlet. A proof was already 


corrected when Zola thought of giving the letter a wider 
publicity by issuing it in a newspaper. A Radical journal 
called " L'Aurore," established in 1896 by M. Ernest Vaughan, 
previously one of the coadjutors of Henri Rochefort, had 
already taken up the cause of Dreyfus in a very cour- 
ageous manner. Zola therefore offered his letter to M. 
Vaughan, who at once decided to publish it; and though 
it Was also printed as a pamphlet it was never offered for 
sale in the latter form. 1 It appeared in " L'Aurore " on the 
morning of January 13, 1898, with the following heading 
what French journalists call technically a mancJtette 
in bold type : " J' Accuse ... ! " The idea was M. Vaughan's, 
and though the proper title, " A Letter to the President 
of the Republic from Smile Zola," was duly given, it was as 
" J' Accuse" ("I Accuse") that the letter became known all 
the world over. 

It was a powerful piece of writing ; those who only knew 
the Affair by what appeared on the surface judged it at the 
time to be too violent, excessive, but it was fully justified by 
subsequent events and discoveries. After expressing solici- 
tude for M. F&ix Faure and his presidency, on which so 
much mud had been cast by the Affair and its abominations, 
and setting forth that a court-martial had just dared to 
acquit, by order, an Esterhazy, a supreme blow to all truth 
and justice, Zola declared that on his side he would dare to 
do something, that is speak the truth, as he did not wish to 
be a tacit accomplice, for in that case his nights would be 
haunted by the spectre of an innocent man who was expi- 
ating beyond the seas, in frightful torture, a crime he had 

* Zola says in " La Ve"rite* en Marche " that the pamphlets remained ware- 
housed. The writer believes that they were ultimately destroyed. 


not committed. Next came an interesting summary of the 
Dreyfus case, a denunciation of the extraordinary methods and 
machinations of Colonel du Paty de Clam, by whom Dreyfus 
had been arrested, an account of the support which Du Paty 
had received from Generals de Boisdeffre, Mercier, and 
Gonse, a scathing exposure of the emptiness of the indict- 
ment on which Dreyfus had been convicted, and a scornful 
rejection of a certain secret document about " a scoundrel 
named D." l Passing to Esterhazy's case, Zola showed Pic- 
quart unravelling the truth but thwarted in his endeavours 
by Generals Billot, de Boisdeffre, and Gonse, because the 
condemnation of Esterhazy would necessarily imply a revi- 
sion of the proceedings against Dreyfus. General Billot 
had not been compromised in them, he was a newcomer, 
but had taken the crimes of others under his wing in order 
to save what he deemed to be the interests of the military 
party. However, M. Mathieu Dreyfus had denounced Ester- 
hazy, who after being greatly alarmed, ready for suicide 
or flight, had all at once become audacious, having received 
help from "a veiled lady," otherwise Du Paty de Clam, 
whose work, the conviction of Dreyfus, was now seriously 
imperilled, and who therefore had to defend it. Then 
Zola referred to the struggle between Colonels du Paty and 
Picquart, the latter of whom was at last accused of forging 
a petit Neu, otherwise a card-telegram, in order to ruin Ester- 
hazy, in such wise that the one honest military man in the 
whole Affair was made a victim. The proceedings at the 
Esterhazy court-martial had been iniquitous, and yet in a 
sense only natural, for as Zola wrote: 

1 One of the points on which the new revision proceedings (1904) have 
"been based is that the initial D was substituted in the document for another 
letter, probably a T. 


"How could one hope that one court-martial would undo what 
another had done ? . . . Does not the superior idea of discipline, 
which is in the very blood of those soldiers, suffice to weaken their 
capacity for equity? Whoever says discipline says obedience. 
When the Minister of War, the supreme chief, had publicly estab- 
lished, amid the acclamations of the National Representatives [the 
Chamber of Deputies] the authority of a decided case [la chose 
jugee"], could one expect that a court-martial would give Mm the 
lie direct 1 ? . . . General Billot had given the judges [of Ester- 
hazy] a hint, and they gave their decision, in the same way as they 
might go into battle, that is, without arguing. The preconceived 
opinion which they brought to the bench was evidently this : 
'Dreyfus was convicted of treason by a court-martial; he is 
therefore guilty, and we, as a court-martial, cannot declare him 
innocent ; we know that to proclaim the guilt of Esterhazy would 
be to proclaim the innocence of Dreyfus.' Nothing could move 
them from this view. 

" They have pronounced an iniquitous sentence which will for- 
ever weigh on our courts-martial, and cast suspicion on all their 
decisions. The first court-martial [that on Dreyfus] may have been 
wanting in intelligence, the second [on Esterhazy] was criminal, 
perforce. Its excuse, I repeat, is that the supreme chief had 
spoken, declaring the chose jugee to be unassailable, holy, and 
superior to man, in such wise that subordinates dared not affirm 
the contrary. People speak of the honour of the army, they wish 
us to love and respect it. Ah ! certainly, yes, the army which 
would rise at the first threat, which would defend our French soil, 
the army which is compounded of the whole people, for that we 
have only affection and respect. But it is no question of that 
army, for the dignity of which we are justly anxious in our desire 
for justice. It is a question of the sword, the master that may 
be given us, perhaps, to-morrow. And to kiss devoutly the hilt 
of the sword, the fetish no ! 

"As I have shown, the Dreyfus Affair was the War Office 
Affair. An officer of the Staff, denounced by his comrades on the 


Staff, and condemned by the pressure of the Chiefs of the Staff, 
cannot come hack as an innocent man without virtually showing 
the whole Staff to he guilty. And so the War Office, hy every 
imaginable means, hy campaigns in the press, hy communications, 
hy influence, has screened Esterhazy in order to ruin Dreyfus a 
second time. Ah ! what a vigorous sweep the Republican Gov- 
ernment ought to effect in that Jesuits* den, as General Billot 
himself once styled iti Where can we find a truly strong and 
wisely patriotic Ministry daring enough to recast and renew it 
entirely ? How many are the people who, at the thought of war, 
trernhle with anguish, knowing in what hands the national defence 
is placed I And what a den of base intrigue, tittle-tattle, and 
waste has been made of that sacred asylum, where the fate of the 
country is decided ! We are scared by the terrible light cast upon 
it by the Dreyfus Affair, that human sacrifice of an unfortunate 
man, a ' dirty Jew ! ? Ah ! what a seething there has been there 
of madness and folly, silly fancies, practices only fit for some base 
police service, customs worthy of the inquisition and despotism, the 
good pleasure of a few gold*hraided individuals setting their heels 
on the nation, and stifling its cry for truth and justice, under the 
mendacious and sacrilegious pretext of the interest of the State 1 " 

Then, after censuring the press and the riff-raff of Paris, 
which supported the evil-doers, Zola declared it was a crime 
to poison the minds of the poor and lowly, to inflame re- 
actionary passions and intolerance, sheltered the while be- 
hind that odious anti-Semitism of which France the great 
Trance of the Bights of Man would die if she were not 
cured of it. " It is a crime," he added, " to exploit patriot- 
ism for works of hatred, and finally it is a crime to mate 
the sword one's God, when all human science is working for 
the coming sway of truth, and justice/' Next he praised M. 
Scheurer-Kestner, the great, good, upright man who, in his 
honest simplicity, had believed that a statement of the truth 


would suffice for justice to be done, and who was cruelly 
punished for his delusion. In like way Colonel Picquart, 
in reward for his scrupulousness and respectfulness, was 
covered with mud by his superiors. "One even saw this 
ignoble thing/' said Zola, referring to Colonel Picquart, " a 
French tribunal, after allowing the prosecuting counsel to 
heap charges on a witness, to accuse him publicly of every 
kind of transgression, ordered the court to be cleared directly 
that witness was called in to explain and defend himself. 
I declare that this is one crime the more, a crime which 
will rouse the public conscience. Decidedly, the military 
tribunals have a strange idea of justice ! " 

Then after a final appeal to President Faure, who if he 
were the prisoner of the Constitution and his entourage, 
still had to discharge the duties of a man, Zola declared 
that he in no wise despaired of triumph, for truth was on 
the march and nothing would stop it. The Affair was only 
beginning. On one side were the guilty who wished to 
withhold the light ; on the other the servants of justice who 
would lay down their lives in order that it might appear. 
When truth was buried underground, it gathered strength 
there, acquired such explosive force that on bursting forth 
it blew up everything. One would see, then, if present 
secrecy had not prepared the most resounding of disasters 
for some future date. And Zola concluded : 

" I accuse Lieutenant-Colonel du Paty de Clam of having "been 
the diabolical author of the judicial error, unconsciously I am willing 
to believe, and of having defended his baleful work for three years 
by the most absurd and culpable machinations. I accuse General 
Mercier of having rendered himself an accomplice, at least through 
want of firmness, in one of the greatest iniquities of the century. 


I accuse General Billot of Laving held positive proofs of the inno- 
cence of Dreyfus, and of having suppressed them, of having perpe- 
trated this crime against humanity and against justice with a 
political object, and in order to save the compromised Staff, I 
accuse General de Boisdeffre and General Gonse of having become 
accomplices in the same crime, the former doubtless from clerical 
passion, 1 the other, perhaps, from that esprit de corps which makes 
the War Office a sacred and unassailable ark. I accuse General 
de Pellieux and Major Eavary of having made a wicked inquiry, 
that is an inquiry of the most monstrous partiality, of which we 
have, in the latter's report, an imperishable monument of naiVe 
audacity. I accuse the three handwriting experts, 2 Sieurs Bel- 
homme, Varinard, and Couard, of having made lying and fraudulent 
reports, unless medical examination should prove that they suffer 
from diseased sight and judgment. I accuse the War Office of having 
carried on in the press, particularly in * L'Eclair ' and * L'Echo de 
Paris/ an abominable campaign in order to mislead public opinion 
and screen its transgressions. Lastly I accuse the first court- 
martial of having violated the law by condemning an accused man on 
a document which was kept secret ; and I accuse the second court- 
martial of having covered that illegality by order ; in its turn com- 
mitting the judicial crime of knowingly acquitting a guilty person. 
" In preferring these charges I am not ignorant of the fact that 
I expose myself to the penalties of Clauses 30 and 31 of the Press 
Law of July 29, 1881, which punishes libel. And it is voluntarily 
that I expose myself. As for the men whom I accuse, I do not 
know them. I have never seen them. I have no resentment or 

1 General de Boisdeffre, the Head of the General Staff, was a devout Catho- 
lic and an extreme anti-Semite. He had been French ambassador in Russia 
and it was there that his hatred of the Jews had taken "birth. Boisdeffre did 
not place Dreyfus on the General Staff, but found him on it upon taking 
office, the appointment having been made by Boisdeffre's predecessor, General 
de Miribel. Boisdeffre was largely under the thumb of Father du Lac, a 
Jesuit, his confessor, to whom, he repeatedly confided matters connected with 
his duties. 

3 Those experts asserted that Dreyfus had traced the bordereau from Ester- 
hazy's handwriting in order to saddle him with the guilt of it, 


hatred against them. They are for me mere entities, spirits of 
social maleficence. And the act which I accomplish here is only 
a revolutionary means of hastening the explosion of truth and 
justice. I have but one passion one for light, in the name of 
humanity, which has suffered so much, and which has a right to 
happiness. My passionate protest is but the cry of my soul. Let 
them have the courage to bring me before an Assize Court, and let 
the inquiry be held in broad daylight ! I wait." 

This manifesto threw Paris into a state of uproar. Three 
hundred thousand copies of the number of " L'Aurore " con- 
taining it were sold, 1 and long extracts were reproduced by 
"Le Sifecle," "La Petite B<5publique," and the few other 
newspapers which supported the cause of Dreyfus : the great 
bulk of the press, it should be mentioned, being on the 
other side. The Clericalists in particular now threw off 
all disguise. That same afternoon Count Albert de Mun, 
the Papal Nuncio's henchman, " interpellated " the govern- 
ment in the Chamber of Deputies, and by 312 yotes against 
122 carried a resolution calling on the authorities to put a 
stop to "the attacks on the honour of the army. 3 * The 
Prime Minister, M. M41ine, announced on this occasion that 
it had been decided to prosecute Zola, but this hardly satis- 
fied the more ardent Clericalists, one of whom, M. de Pont- 
briand, deputy for Nantes and an acolyte of the Archbishop of 
Paris, suggested a few days afterwards that all the members 
of the Dreyfus family and the leaders of the " Jew Syndicate " 2 

1 A good many copies were bought by anti-Dreyfusites and burnt publicly 
in the streets. 

2 There never was such a syndicate. Said Zola to Yizetelly more than, 
once : " It is a thousand pities there was none! Half the journalists who 
denounced us lived on bribes and blackmail. They would willingly have sold 
themselves. In fact, in some instances, indirect suggestions to that effect 
were made in the belief that we really had a syndicate and millions of francs 


should be cast into Mazas at once! Moreover, a public 
meeting held at the Tivoli Hall was largely attended by 
priests, Christian brothers, and seminarists of Saint Sulpice, 
who were granted special leave for the occasion ; and long 
and eager were the shouts of " Down with the Jews ! " raised 
by these ecclesiastics, who were finally routed by some 
Anarchists among the audience. 

During the ensuing fortnight demonstrations and riots 
took place in various parts of France, notably in cities where 
the priestly cause was strongly represented : Lyons, the city 
of Notre Dame de Fourvferes ; Marseilles, the city of Notre 
Dame de la Garde ; Nantes, which had sent the anti-Semitic 
Pontbriand to represent it in parliament, and Bordeaux, 
where clericalism likewise numbered many adherents. Still 
more serious disturbances followed in Algeria, where Jews 
were beaten, wounded, in a few cases actually killed, their 
houses and shops sacked, and a quantity of their property 
burnt, or, in some instances at Algiers, thrown into the sea. 
Meanwhile Paris was in a state of turmoil, full of shouting 
crowds who, when they were not demonstrating before some 
Dreyfusite newspaper office, acclaimed every uniform with 
the cry of " Vive Tarmde ! " and pursued every suspicious 
nose with that of " Down with the Jews ! " Zola was 
hooted under his windows, a few of which were broken, 
and the police had to protect his house. At the same time, 
while there was no little ferocity and violence, a great deal 
of Chauvimsme, as well as abundant hypocrisy and coward- 
ice in certain political and bourgeois circles, the Esterhazy 
court-martial had quite disgusted a number of sensible, 

at our disposal. I know that seyeral prominent Jewish financiers paid large 
Bums at the time to hare their names kept out of the newspapers.'" 


educated, thinking people, and ten members of the Institute 
of Trance, eight professors of the Paris Faculty of Medicine, 
a dozen of the Sorbonne, the College de France, and the 
cole Normale, who were joined by numerous professors of 
provincial faculties and a good many scientific and literary 
men, now for the first time declared in favour of a revision 
of the Dreyfus case, thus bringing a welcome support to the 
cause for which Yves Guyot, Jean Jaur&s, Francis de Pres- 
sens6, Georges Clemenceau, Joseph Eeinach, Eaoul Allier, 
and others were fighting in the press. This accession of 
strength to the Dreyfusite cause was greeted with sneers by 
the professional Jew-baiters, the Clericalist leaders, and the 
retrograde UttSrateurs of the Brunetifere coterie who led or 
influenced the majority of the Parisians. They nicknamed 
their adversaries "the intellectuals," applying the word 
derisively ; but it was a welcome nickname, and one well 
deserved by the little party of sensible men which counted 
in its ranks such notabilities as Br&l, Berthelot, Duclaux, 
Giry, Grimaux, Seville, Havet, Trarieux, Monod, Kane, Passy, 
Paul Meyer, Anatole France, and Leroy-Beaulieu. 

On January 20 Zola at last received a copy of the citation, 
which at the suit of the War Minister, General Billot, sum- 
moned him and M. Perrenx, the nominal manager of 
L'Aurore," before the Assize Court of the Seine to answer, 
not the long string of charges contained in the letter to 
President F41ix Faure, but only fifteen lines of it those 
which denounced the Esterhazy court-martial for having 
acquitted the major "by order." All the rest was ignored. 
The desire of the military authorities was evident, they 
still wished to prevent any discussion of the Dreyfus case. 
Zola thereupon wrote to General Billot reiterating all his 


charges, but the only effect of this letter, which appeared in 
<c I/ Aurora," was to induce the three handwriting experts, 
Belhornme, Varinard, and Couard, to bring an action against 
the novelist claiming damages for libel. On January 22 the 
conduct of the military authorities in shirking Zola's princi- 
pal accusations was raised in the Chamber of Deputies, 3 and 
wild uproar and fighting ensued until order was restored by 
the military guard. Two days later Count von Bulow, the 
German Foreign Secretary, declared in the Reichstag: 
"Between Captain Dreyfus and any German organs or 
authorities, no relations of whatever kind have ever existed." 
The Italian and Austrian governments made similar dec- 
larations ; but nothing could check the folly of the French 
Militarists, or even of the Government, which well knew 
through the diplomatic agents of France abroad that in 
every court and chancellery of Europe Dreyfus was regarded 
as innocent and Esterhazy believed to be guilty. The 
foreign press shared that view, and expressions and testi- 
monials of sympathy began to reach Zola from all parts of 
the world 2 He received them gratefully ; but could the 
sympathy of foreigners afford adequate solace when four out 
of every six Parisians were covering him with mud ? Be- 
sides, that very sympathy led to yet more virulent attacks 
on him. It was fitting, said his enemies, that he should be 

i The discussion was originally raised by M. Cavaignac, one of the evil 
geniuses of the Republican party, apropos of an alleged confession made by 
Dreyfus to an officer of gendarmerie, bnt M. Jaur&s, the Socialist leader, profited 
by the opportunity to bring forward the prosecution of Zola. 

3 Mr. David Christie Murray, the novelist, gave a very interesting lecture 
on the bordereau at the Egyptian Hall in London, generously placed at his 
disposal by Mr. Maskelyne. In the course of his remarks Mr. Murray strongly 
praised Zola's attitude, pointing out that after toiling through poverty, priva- 
tion, and obloquy, to fame and wealth, he braved imprisonment and ruin out of 
pure pity and love of justice. 

Penn, from the Garden 

E. Zola 

Miss & Mrs. Vizetelly 

Facsimile card from Zola to Vizetelly 


supported by foreigners, who for the most part rejoiced to see 
the French army attacked and insulted I Well, he was wel- 
come to their support. France cared nothing what foreigners 
might say. She would settle her own affairs in her own 
manner, regardless of the opinions of this man Zola, who 
was himself a foreigner, some kind of dirty Italian. 

He had entrusted his defence to an advocate still young 
in years, esteemed by all who knew him, but not as yet 
of high public reputation. Born at Eheims, of Alsatian 
parents, his father being one of the chief inspectors of the 
East of France Eailway Company, Maitre Labori had mar- 
ried a lady of Irish extraction, at one time well known 
in London musical circles. He was possessed of a tall, 
commanding figure, a bright, sunny face, a warm, penetrat- 
ing voice. And he was not only very talented and 
extremely courageous, but he had the best of qualifications 
for the task he undertook : he believed absolutely in the in- 
nocence of Dreyfus ; and thus he threw himself into the strug- 
gle with a whole-hearted devotion. The reader who knows 
something of the great fight he made both for Zola and 
for the unhappy Jewish officer, may be surprised to learn 
that if Maitre Labori made himself a great name during 
that struggle, he reaped little or no immediate pecuniary 
gain. Zola's being a genuine political case, he would take 
no fee; he was only willing to accept a comparatively 
modest sum for his expenses and the services of the young 
advocates, his secretaries. In this he was following one of 
the lofty traditions on which the French bar prides itself. 
Berryer asked no fee when he defended either the min- 
isters of Charles X or Louis Napol4on before the peers 
of Louis Philippe's time ; Jules Favre asked none, whether 



he defended Orsini or other conspirators, or OBS of the 
many journalists or politicians arraigned during the Second 
Empire. The same may be said of Joly, who defended 
Henri Rochefort ; of Gambetta when he defended Delescluze, 
and of many others. Occasionally a present in kind may 
be accepted by counsel ; and from a few words that Zola 
once let fall, the writer thinks that Maitre Labori may have 
been eventually persuaded to accept the title-deed of a little 
property which several of those indebted for his services 
thought of purchasing and presenting to him. 

At the suit of Zola and his fellow-defendant nearly a 
hundred witnesses ministers, officers, deputies, senators, 
diplomatists, authors, journalists, handwriting experts, and 
others were summoned to appear at the approaching trial ; 
but great efforts were made to prevent many from attending. 
Directly the jury-roll was issued, the names and addresses 
of those who might have to pronounce on the case were pub- 
lished by "Le Petit Journal" and other scurrilous prints; 
and numerous threatening letters were sent to these men, 
intimating that vengeance would follow if they should 
dare to acquit "the Italian." Moreover the Nationalist 
and Clerical leaders prepared for demonstrations on a large 
scale. A kind of employment office was established on the 
boulevards, where hirelings were engaged at the rate of five 
francs a day or two francs an evening to shout "Vive 
rarmfe," "A bas les Juifs," and "Conspuez Zola!" These 
men met with little or no interference from the authorities, 
who contented themselves with massing police and munici- 
pal guards in and around the Palais de Justice. 

The trial began on February 7. The Assize Court was 
crowded, Nationalists and anti-Semites preponderating 


among the audience. There were fifteen sittings altogether, 
the last being held on February 23. The presiding judge, M. 
Delegorgue, 1 did his utmost to prevent the witnesses from 
giving evidence respecting the Dreyfus case ; and again and 
again, when Maitre Labori wished to ask a question, Dele- 
gorgue snappishly exclaimed: "The question shall not be 
put ! " Nevertheless the judge could not prevent the wit- 
nesses and Labori from establishing a number of facts 
among others the illegality of Dreyfus's condemnation, the 
insignificance of the evidence upon which he had been 
officially condemned, the error committed by the military 
judges in respect of the "bordereau, and the certainty that it 
was Esterhazy's work. The evidence was, indeed, of such 
immense significance that the General Staff thought it 
necessary to strike a decisive blow. General de Pellieux 
gave the jury a summary of a forged correspondence between 
Colonels von Schwarzkoppen and Panizzardi, the former 
German and Italian military attaches, this correspondence, 
in which Dreyfus was mentioned, having been manufactured 
by a certain Lemercier-Picard with the knowledge of the 
notorious Colonel Henry. General de Boisdeffre, however, 
virtually certified its authenticity, and at the same time 
threatened the jury with the resignation of the whole 
General Staff if Zola were acquitted. Then Colonel Henry 
and Major Lauth accused Picquart of having asserted 
Dreyfus's innocence without knowledge of the papers in the 
case, and of having invented one of them in order to ruin 
Esterhazy. Maitre Labori was not allowed to question the 

1 He was the son of a certain Delegorgue, who after being known as the 
"elephant hunter " in the days of Louis Philippe, became a great friend of 
Alfred de Musset with whom he often played chess at the Cafe" de la Eegence. 


generals, or answer them. Great indignation was expressed 
when Picquart had the courage to say that a Panizzajdi- 
Schwarzkoppen letter mentioned by General de Pellieux 
was a forgery. Yet not only was such the case, but some 
weeks previously the forgery had been revealed to the 
embassies of Italy and Germany, most probably by Lemer- 
cier-Picard, the forger himself. Count Tornielli and Coiint 
Miinster in their turn had revealed it to M. Hanotaux, the 
French Foreign Minister, demanding his word of honour that 
no use should be made of it. M. Hanotaux communicated 
this revelation to his colleagues, and even sent a written note 
about it to the Ministry of War. It has been said, too, that 
on the day after General de Pellieux's deposition' M. Hano- 
taux proposed to suspend the proceedings in Zola's trial in 
order to look for and prosecute the forgers, but that his 
fellow-ministers hesitated from fear of a military movement. 
Anyhow, the episode ended disastrously for Lemercier- 
Picard. On March 3 he was found hanging in his room, his 
feet dangling on the floor. All his papers had disappeared 
before the police came to take possession of the corpse. 
Yet, according to the authorities, it was a case of suicide ! * 
The trial was full of stirring episodes. The Nationalists 
who crowded the court vented their passions freely, shout- 
ing, jeering, and groaning at almost everybody who expressed 
any view favourable to Dreyfus or derogatory to the swag- 
gering, gold-laced officers, who when questioned either re- 
fused to answer or perjured themselves with the audacity 
of men confident of impunity. Zola, who was insulted day 

1 In the above passage tlie able summary of the Dreyfus case (by Sir God- 
frey Lushington, it has been said) published by " The Times," October 14, 
1898, has been followed. For all the details of Zola's trial, see " Le Proces 
Zola, Compte Bendu in extenso" etc., 2 vols., 8vo, Paris, Stock, 1898. 


after day, put a brave face on It all, and only on a few occa- 
sions did he give utterance to his disgust, protesting against 
tke manner in which he was mobbed in the streets, and 
against the denial of justice which he encountered in court, 
where he claimed the same liberty to defend himself as was 
accorded to thieves and assassins. At one sitting, when 
General de Pellieux made a slighting remark, the novelist 
turned on him haughtily : a There are several ways of serv- 
ing France," said he. '* A man may do so with the sword 
or with the pen. If you have won victories, so have I. I 
bequeath the name of fimile Zola to posterity, which will 
choose between us ! " De Pellieux made no retort to those 
proud words. In that hour of mendacious triumph he did 
not foresee the day when he would be virtually disgraced, 
consigned to an obscure garrison in Brittany, to die there, 
tortured, as we know, by the deepest remorse. Again, at 
one moment towards the close of the trial, when the storm 
of execration thundered more loudly than usual in Zola's 
ears, the novelist turned towards the bellowers, and with 
one word branded them : " You cannibals ! " he cried, "you 
cannibals ! " 

Except on two or three occasions when the rain fell in 
torrents, great precautions had to be taken for Zola's safety. 
Senator Ranc, an old conspirator and no mean judge of dan- 
ger, subsequently stated that to his knowledge the novelist 
repeatedly had some very narrow escapes. The carriage in 
which he drove to and from the Palais de Justice was often 
pursued by a hostile mob, which the police had to charge 
and disperse. On some occasions policemen mounted on 
bicycles escorted the carriage, and Zola was always accom- 
panied by a little body-guard of friends : H Fasquelle, his 


publisher, M. Bruneau, the composer, and particularly M, Fer- 
nand Desmoulin, the accomplished engraver, to whom one 
owes a fine portrait of Zola, produced at the time when the 
Rougon-Macquart series was completed. Throughout the 
tumultuous period of the trial M. Pesmoulin was invariably 
by his friend's side with a six-shooter in readiness. Madame 
Zola, who also attended the proceedings, was in like way 
escorted by vigilant friends. The horror of it all had at 
first seemed more than she could bear, but she strove to be 
brave and calm. After all, as she repeated, her husband 
was doing his duty. 

On the thirteenth day of the trial, after the speech for the 
prosecution, Zola read an address to the jury, in which, after 
referring to all the pressure employed to secure his convic- 
tion, he sketched broadly and graphically the situation into 
which the Affair had cast France. He denied that he had 
insulted the army : those who had done so were the men 
who mingled with their acclamations the cry of "Down 
with the Jews!" "And they have even shouted, 'Vive 
Esterhazy !'" he added. "Great God! the nation of Saint 
Louis, of Bayard, of Condd, and of Hoche ; the nation that 
can boast a hundred gigantic victories; the nation of the 
great wars of Republican and Imperial days; the nation 
whose strength, grace, and generosity have dazzled the 
world, has shouted 'Long live Esterhazy !' That is a stain 
of which only our effort for truth and justice can wash us 
clean." Then after speaking sarcastically of the alleged 
" Jewish Syndicate," said to have been formed to bribe people 
and buy evidence, he appealed to the common sense of the 
jury, warning them they would make a great mistake if 
they imagined that the campaign would be stopped by any 


verdict of guilty in his case. As for himself, he shrugged 
his shoulders at the insinuations that he had sold himself 
to the Jews, that he was a liar and a traitor. Then he 
continued : 

" I have no political, no sectarian passions. I am a writer. I 
have toiled all my life, and shall return to the ranks to-morrow to 
resume my interrupted work. How stupid it is of some to call me 
an Italian, I the son of a French mother, brought up by Beauceron 
grandparents. ... I lost my father when I was seven years old 
and did not visit Italy till I was fifty-four. , . . Still that does not 
prevent me from feeling very proud that my father belonged to 
Venice, the resplendent city whose ancient glory rings through 
every mind. But, even if I were not French, would not the forty 
volumes in the French language which I have scattered by mil- 
lions of copies throughout the world, would not they suffice to 
make me a Frenchman, one useful to the glory of France ? " 

Having thus dealt with the personal question, Zola pro- 
ceeded to plead for Dreyfus, for equity and enlightenment 
which alone could restore peace and order in France. And, 
asking the jurymen if they wished to see France isolated in 
Europe, he showed them the foreign nations already cast- 
ing doubts on French humanity and equity. Next, amid 
increasing interruptions, he continued as follows : 

"Alas! gentlemen, like so many others, you await perhaps a 
flash of lightning, the proof of the innocence of Dreyfus descend- 
ing from heaven like a thunderbolt. Truth does not come upon 
us in that way; as a rule, some research and intelligence are 
needed to find her. (Jeers.) The proof! Ah! we well know 
where it might be found. But it is only in the depths of our 
souls that we think of that, and our patriotic anguish proceeds 
from a dread lest France should have exposed herself to receiving 
that proof as a slap, after compromising the honour of her army 


by a lie. (Loud protests.) But I wish to declare plainly that if 
we notified to tlie prosecution the names of certain members of 
foreign embassies as witnesses, we had no intention of summon- 
ing those persons to this court. Some people smiled at our 
audacity. But I do not think that anybody smiled at the Min- 
istry of Foreign Affairs, for there they must have understood our 
object. (Protests.) We merely wished to indicate to those who 
know the whole truth that we knew it also. It is circulating in 
aU the embassies, it will soon be known to everybody. . . . The 
Government which is ignorant of nothing, the Government which, 
like ourselves, is convinced of the innocence of Dreyfus (Loud pro- 
tests.) can, without any risk, and whenever it pleases, find wit- 
nesses who will at last throw light on everything. 

" Dreyfus is innocent, I swear it. (The proof! The proof! ) 
I stake my life on it, I stake my honour on it. At this solemn 
hour, in presence of this tribunal which represents human justice, 
before you, gentlemen of the jury, who personify the nation, be- 
fore all France, before the whole world, I swear that Dreyfus is 
innocent. (Uproar.) And by my forty years of labour, by the 
authority which that labour may have given me, I swear that 
Dreyfus is innocent. (Violent protests.) And by all I have ac- 
quired, by the name I have made for myself, by my works which 
have contributed to the expansion of French literature, I swear 
that Dreyfus is innocent* (Protests and hisses.) May all that 
crumble, may my works perish, if Dreyfus is not innocent. He is 
innocent ! (Prolonged uproar.) 

" Everything seems to be against me, the two Chambers, the 
civil authorities, the military authorities, the newspapers which 
circulate the most widely, and public opinion which they have 
poisoned. And on my side I have only an ideal of truth and 
justice. And I am quite easy in mind, for I shall conquer. I did 
not wish my country to remain amid mendacity and injustice. 
You may strike me here, France will some day thank me for 
having helped to save her honour." (General tumult. Repeated 
shouts of "The proof I Give the proof! ") 


Zola, as we know, was not an orator. Emotion made his 
voice tremble as he began to read his declaration, but com- 
posure gradually came to him, followed towards the close 
by real strength of manner. And though, as the foregoing 
extracts indicate, many sentences were followed by violent 
protests and ridiculous shouts of "Proof! proof!" ridicu- 
lous by reason of the fact that the judge and the military 
witnesses had done their utmost to prevent any proof from 
being supplied the audience listened with great attention. 
Once Zola's voice cracked as he tried to give emphasis to a 
word, and his listeners then jeered him, but, on the whole, 
he did far better than had been expected by those who 
knew how difficult it was for him to speak in public. 

He was followed by Maitre Labori, who had fought most 
manfully and skilfully throughout the whole proceedings, 
and who now speedily subdued the hostile and noisy audi- 
ence. Whenever, at the outset of his great speech, the 
Nationalists laughed at a statement or an argument, coun- 
sel repeated it in a yet more emphatic manner than before. 
Groans arose when, referring to his client, he said: "A 
patriot like Zola"; and at once, turning like a lion, he 
repeated the words : " Yes, a patriot like Zola a patriot 
with a braver heart, a clearer vision, a loftier love of his 
own land than is owned by any of the shallow-minded 
swallowers of phrases who rage at him. One of these days 
you will recognise your own folly and his greatness." Then 
the brave advocate paused for a few seconds, as if challeng- 
ing a new outburst But there was complete silence. " Ah, 
well, then," he said, with a touch of fighting laughter in his 
voice, "I will continue." And having conquered his audi- 
ence he reverted to his argument. His address was con- 


tinned on the morrow, February 22, when, demonstrating 
the accuracy of Zola's assertion that Dreyfus was innocent, 
he showed that the whole procedure of the 1894 trial had 
been carried out by officers whose excitement of mind 
had verged on positive derangement, and that it was con- 
sequently valueless. Towards the end of his argument, 
which was very close and pregnant, the anti-Semites once 
more became uproarious, but the manifestations against the 
advocate brought on counter-manifestations in his favour 
from the Dreyfusites, who had mustered in some force that 
day. The account of Dreyfus's degradation, the unhappy 
man's letters and protests, which Maltre Labori read, pro- 
duced a powerful impression. When he referred to the 
extraordinary traps which Du Paty de Clam had set in 
the hope of extracting from his prisoner something which 
might be interpreted as a confession, everybody seemed sud- 
denly won over to the Dreyf usite cause ; and acclamations 
again followed a passage in which counsel reminded those 
in high places, who assumed sucli a hypocritical " non pos- 
sumus" attitude towards the case, that the most pilloried 
and execrated name in all history was that of Pontius 
Pilate. Again, on the morrow, Maftre Labori took up the 
thread of his discourse, which ended with a fine peroration. 
But this time, the Dreyfusites being altogether outnumbered, 
vehement protests mingled with the applause which saluted 
him. After M. Olemenceau had spoken amid frequent 
tumultuous interruptions for Zola's fellow-defendant, M. 
Perrenx of "L'Aurore," the jurors withdrew to consider 
their verdict which, by a majority of seven to five} was 

1 In France it is not necessary for all twelve jurymen to "be of the same 


one of guilty. It was seven o'clock in the evening; the 
court-room, the whole Palais de Justice indeed, its precincts 
and the adjoining streets, were crowded with people among 
whom the professional anti-Semites and many officers were 
conspicuous. Yells of triumph greeted the news of the ver- 
dict, and were renewed when it was known that in Zola's 
case the maximum penalty of a year's imprisonment with a 
fine of three thousand francs had been applied. 1 And there 
earne loud and ominous shouts of "Death to the Jewsl 
death to the dirty Jews ! " followed by scuffles and affrays 
which the police, two thousand in number, could scarcely 

Zola took his sentence quietly, his wife fell weeping on 
his neck and his friends surrounded him, pressing his hands. 
At last he was smuggled out of court and carried to a 
friend's house, where he spent the evening, while half Paris 
was demonstrating in one and another direction. The ver- 
dict and sentence were naturally approved by the great 
majority of people who, having as yet no notion that several 
officers of the General Staff had deliberately perjured them- 
selves, still put all their trust in those brave defenders of 
the country. On the following day, however, the foreman 
of the jury stated, significantly enough, that the verdict had 
been given on -the sole ground that Zola had gone beyond 
what was permissible by insulting a court-martial. As for 
the revision of the Dreyfus case, he, the foreman, was not 
opposed to it, indeed he hoped it would be brought about 
by legal means. Thus the triumph of the Militarists was 
really only surface deep. 

1 M. Perrenx was sentenced to the same fine and four months' imprison- 


Zola gave notice of appeal on various grounds, and then 
turned to Ms novel Paris," the last proofs of which he had 
quietly corrected during the interval between his letter, 
" J'Accuse," and his trial The work was originally to have 
appeared in January, but was delayed by Zola's participation 
in the Dreyfus case. Writing to Vizetelly on February 6, 
the evening before he went into court, he said ; " ' Paris/ will 
only be published on March 1. Please therefore warn Mr. 
Chatto at once and tell him that this date is final. . . . I am 
not of your opinion. 1 I think that the book will be more 
successful if we allow the public emotion to calm down a 
little. Besides, we shall not be ready till March 1 " 

"Paris" which had been appearing serially in "Le 
Journal/' was issued, then, on that date. 2 In France the 
sales were small, for many who had long read Zola with 
approval now turned from the alleged insulter of the army, 
the defender of Jewish traitors. But the demand from 
abroad, whence addresses of sympathy had been raining 
upon the novelist for six weeks past, was a large one, and 
thus he did not immediately suffer any great pecuniary loss 
from Ms championship of an obnoxious cause. Unfor- 
tunately the lessons which the work inculcated scarcely 
reached those for whom they were primarily intended, that 
is the Parisians themselves, all " good patriots " having now 
agreed to shun Zola and his works. 

A period of less disorder but of much controversy, marked 
by some more revelations, followed his trial. Then on 

1 At the request of the English publishers Vizetelly had written suggest- 
ing that the book ought to be published as soon as possible, that is, while the 
author's case was attracting so much attention. 

2 "Paris," Faaquelle, 1898, 18mo, 608 pages. Some copies on Dutch 
and other special papers j a few presentation ones in 2 vols., 8vo. Eighty- 
eighth thousand in 1899 ; ninety-fourth thousand in 1903. 


April 2, the Cour de Cassation, having examined his ap- 
peal, quashed his conviction on the ground that the pro- 
. ceedings ought to have been instituted, not by the Minister 
of War, but by the court-martial which he had been accused 
of libelling. This decision quite enraged the military author- 
ities. The court-martial in question became alarmed and 
almost shrank from taking proceedings, but pressure was 
put on it by General de Pellieux and others who on April 
8 prevailed on its members to take the necessary action, 
and at the same time apply to the Grand Chancellor of the 
Legion of Honour to strike Zola off the roll a suggestion 
which the ineffable Drumont had repeatedly made in " La 
Libre Parole." When on April 11 Zola received a fresh 
citation, he found that he was summoned before the Ver- 
sailles Assizes, and that only three lines of his famous letter, 
" J'Accuse," were now incriminated ! The trial was fixed 
for May 23, on which day anti-Semites and Dreyfusites 
flocked to Versailles. But Maitre Labori impeached the 
jurisdiction of the court on the ground that Zola's offence 
had been committed in a newspaper printed and published 
in Paris, and on a decision being given against him, the 
Cour de Cassation was again appealed to. A further delay 
then ensued. 

On May 29, however, an ignoble attack was made on 
Zola by a certain Ernest Judet of " Le Petit Journal," in 
which he had been carrying on an unscrupulous campaign 
against the cause of justice. The attack took the form of 
some alleged revelations respecting the novelist's father, who 
was said to have been a thief. Judet printed documents 
derived from somebody at the War Office presumably 
Colonel Henry which were subsequently shown to have 


been doctored or forged; and the story which he told, in 
his own fashion, was that of Francois Zola's connection 
with the French Foreign Legion. It has been dealt with 
in the first chapter of this volume ; but the incident must 
be mentioned here, for it gave the accused man's son a great 
and painful shock. The undoubted object of this infamous 
publication was to discredit his efforts on behalf of Dreyfus 
and to damn him in public opinion. But Zola retorted with 
a glowing protest in " L'Aurore," and before long he and 
Judet were prosecuting one another for libel. The sequel 
will be told hereafter. 

Pending the decision in the second appeal made to the 
Cour de Cassation, the turmoil in France continued. 
Numerous illegal and iniquitous acts were perpetrated, pro- 
fessors who had espoused the cause of justice were summa- 
rily dismissed, Colonel Picquart was turned out of the army, 
M. Joseph Reinach lost his rank as an officer of reserves, the 
General Staff virtually ruling the country in spite of the 
various discoveries and revelations which tended, in an in- 
creasing degree, to prove the innocence of Dreyfus and the 
guilt of Esterhazy. At the general elections, which super- 
vened about this time, only a few candidates, such as M. 
Jaur&s and M. Eeinach, dared to speak of justice. It was a 
fear of those elections and the constituencies that had pre- 
viously led many deputies to shrink from the cause of re- 
vision. However, though the Nationalists gained by the 
elections, they did not swamp the Kepublic. M. M^line, 
falling from power, was replaced as Prime Minister by 
M. Brisson, and General Billot as War Minister by M. 
Cavaignac. This politician, a man of some ability but 
much greater self-conceit, imagined that he would put an 


end to the Affair once and for all. On July 7, primed with 
papers provided by Colonel Henry and in which he foolishly 
believed, he delivered an extraordinary speech which the 
Chamber of Deputies enthusiastically ordered to be placarded 
throughout France. In this effusion, in which Dreyfus was 
alleged to have confessed his guilt, use was again made of 
the Schwarzkoppen-Panizzardi forgeries, as well as of the 
paper about a spy called D, to which reference has been 
made previously. According to Cavaignac, those docu- 
ments ended the affair for ever, and Zola therefore might 
be finally judged and condemned. 

The novelist's appeal on the question of jurisdiction had 
been rejected on June 16, a new trial at Versailles being 
fixed for July 18. In the interval, that is on July 9, two 
days after Cavaignac's declarations, the three handwriting 
experts succeeded in the proceedings they had brought 
against Zola for libel He was sentenced to undergo two 
months* imprisonment, to pay a fine of two thousand francs, 
and damages to the extent of five thousand francs to each 
plaintiff. But an appeal being entered, execution did not 
follow immediately. On July 16, two days before returning 
to Versailles, Zola issued a fresh manifesto, this time in the 
form of a letter to M. Brisson, the new Prime Minister, 
whom he upbraided for lending himself to Cavaignac's mock 
inquiry into the Dreyfus case and attaching importance to 
the alleged confession of the unhappy prisoner of Devil's 
Island. Since then we have learnt from M. Brisson him- 
self l that he had to contend with many difficulties, the pres- 
sure exercised by President Faure, who was entirely on the 
side of the Militarists, the deceit and trickery of his colleague 

1 "Souvenirs," by Henri Brisson, published by " Le Sikcle," 1903. 
tetter is in "La Yerit en Marche." 


Cavaignac, the diffidence of other ministers, and the men- 
dacity of various officers. M. Brisson was sincerely desirous 
of doing his duty by furthering the revision of the Dreyfus 
case, and would have done it sooner than he did if so many 
obstacles had not been placed in his way. One part of the 
novelist's letter he certainly took to heart. Zola protested 
against being mobbed by hireling anti-Semites, and as he 
knew that a great expedition of those roughs to Versailles 
had been planned for the day of the new trial, he asked 
that proper measxires might be taken for the preservation of 
order. This was done, gendarmes and troops, as well as 
police, being assembled. 

The novelist returned, then, to Versailles with his counsel 
and his co-defendant, M. Perrenx, the publisher of " L'Aurore," 
who remained a kind of lay figure throughout the whole pro- 
ceedings, being properly remunerated by his newspaper for 
the inconvenience he incurred- Zola and his advisers had 
now resolved to keep the Affair open as long as possible, 
this being the more advisable as Esterhazy, in consequence 
of the denunciations of a relative, had now been arrested 
with his mistress by order of an investigating magistrate ; 
a similar fate also befalling Colonel Picquart, against whom 
M. Cavaignac had preferred a frivolous charge in conse- 
quence of his public declaration that two of the documents 
read by the minister to the Chamber on July 7 did not 
apply to Dreyfus at all and that a third was a forgery. 
Those incidents pointed to further developments, and more- 
over, already at this date, Zola and others had reason to 
suspect that the forgery in question might be the work of 
Colonel Henry, 1 whom they had come to regard with great 

1 So stated to Vizetelly by Zola a few days after his arrival in England. 

Photo by V. R Vizetellv 

Emile Zola, Sept. 1898 


suspicion, he being at the head of that Secret Intelligence 
Bureau whence so many strange documents emanated. 

Thus on July 18, at Versailles, Maitre Labori raised a 
fresh demurrer, claiming that as a court-martial was not a 
civil personality holding property it could not sue. This 
being disallowed, an application for leave to prove the whole 
of Zola's " J* Accuse" instead of merely the three indicted 
lines was submitted. Again came an adverse ruling, where- 
upon Zola, Perrenx, and their counsel quitted the court, 
allowing judgment to go by default. 

There was some commotion, but as soon as the novelist 
and Maitre Labori had entered their carriage, a squadron of 
cavalry swept down on the crowd, and this enabling the 
vehicle to escape, its occupants were driven to the residence 
of M. Charpentier, Zola's friend and former publisher, in the 
Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, Paris. There, Madame Zola 
and M. Clemenceau being present, a council of war was 
held. It was shown that Zola must not remain in France, 
for if the sentence by default were signified to him person- 
ally he would have to enter an appearance against it within 
a few days, and would not be entitled to make default a 
second time. In order to keep the Affair open he must 
avoid service for a while, which was only to be done by 
quitting France. He consented to that course, and London, 
was chosen as his destination. 1 A few toilet articles were 
pressed upon him, and his wife emptied her purse into his ; 
then, after dining, he drove to the Northern Eailway Station, 
where he caught the express starting for Calais at nine P. M. 
He secured a compartment which had no other occupant, 

1 M. Perrenx also had to leave France, and the writer believes that he 
went to Belgium. 



and journeyed to London -without mishap, putting up at the 
Grosvenor Hotel, which M. Clemenceau had recommended to 
him. 1 The same day (July 19} he posted the following note 
to Ernest Vizetelly at Merton : 

"Tell nobody in the world, and particularly no newspaper, that 
I am in London. And oblige me by coming to see me to-morrow, 
Wednesday, at Grosvenor Hotel. You will ask for M. Pascal. 
And, above all, absolute silence, for the most serious interests are 
at stake.*' 

Vizetelly kept the appointment, and found Zola with M. 
Desmonlin and M. Bernard Lazare, who had followed him 
to London. The last named returned to Paris immediately, 
but M. Desmoulin, who spoke a little English, remained with 
his faiend for about a fortnight. The first question that 
arose was whether the English law would afford any facilities 
for the service of the sentence on Zola, and Vizetelly there- 
fore fetched a legal friend, Mr. !F. W. Wareham, 2 with whom 
a consultation was held at the Grosvenor HoteL Mr. Ware- 
ham had already dealt indirectly with the Dreyfus case at 
a time when a mysterious adventurer had proposed to 
Vizetelly to fit out a ship at Bristol, and attempt (& la, 
Captain Kettle) to rescue the prisoner from Devil's Island. 
Vizetelly had then had some reason to doubt the lona, fides 

1 The account of Zola's sojourn in England will here be brief, ike writer 
having already given a full one in his book * ' With Zola in England, a Story 
of Exile," "by E. A. Yizetelly, London, Chatto, and Leipsie, Tauehnitz, 1899, 
Further particulars will be found in various papers by the writer: "Some 
Recollections of Zola" ("Pall Mall Magazine," Yol XXIX, No. 117, January, 
1903) and "Zola at "Wimbledon" (" Wimbledon and Merton Annual," No. 1, 
1904), A full account of the Christmas Zola spent in England (1898) was 
given in "M. A. P., Vol. IX, p. 235:" "Emile Zola in Exile,"-by Marie 
Suzanne (Mrs. E. A.) Vizetelly. 

* Of Messrs. Gregson, "Wareham, Waugh, and Gregson, solicitors. 


of the proposer of the scheme, who, it had seemed to Mm, 
might be an emissary of Dreyfus's enemies, anxious to in- 
veigle Zola through his English representative into some 
illegal action which might ruin the cause. And indeed, 
after being subjected to a severe examination, the man 
vanished, as Hans Breitman would have said, into the 

At the consultation with Mr. Wareham it was found that, 
quite apart from the English laws, the French authorities 
claimed the right to serve process on their own subjects 
all the world over ; and it therefore seemed best to remove Zola 
from London immediately, particularly as that very day he 
had been recognised by an English lady in the Buckingham 
Palace Boad, 1 besides which some suspicion seemed to have 
been roused at the Grosvenor Hotel. Finally Mr. Wareham, 
whose services at this time were of great value, offered his 
own house, 1 Prince's Eoad, Wimbledon, as a provisional 
retreat. Zola's stay there was brief, however, for Wimbledon 
soon seemed to be too populous a place and too near both to 
London and to Merton, where Vizetelly resided, for it was 
virtually a certainty that the latter would soon be besieged 
by journalists eager to know what had become of Zola. 
His disappearance from France had created an extraordi- 
nary sensation. His presence was reported now in Switzer- 
land, now in Norway, now in Holland, now In Belgium, 
now in other parts of the world, but at last some English 
newspapers found the right track, which they were good 
enough to follow no farther than the Oatlands Park Hotel, 

1 It fortunately turned out that the lady was the wife of Mr. Percy Spal- 
ding of Messrs. Chatto and Windus, Zola's English publishers, and thus the 
matter went no further. 


near Weybridge, whither Zola and his friend Desinoulin 
were removed on quitting Wimbledon. 

Through the agency of Mr. Wareham, a furnished country- 
house was next secured for the novelist, this being Penn, 
Oatlands Chase, the residence of Mr. E. G-. Venables, and 
it was there that Zola settled down to write his novel 
" F<3condit6," the first volume of his new series, "Les 
Quatre fivangiles," which he had been quietly planning 
amid all the turmoil of the Dreyfus Affair, a positive 
proof of the superiority of his mind, for not one man in a 
hundred would have* had the courage, the coolness, or the 
power to take up a great literary task and isolate himself 
in study at every available moment in such extraordinary 
circumstances as those in which Zola had found himself, 
insulted, befouled, and condemned. He had now also 
been suspended from the Legion of Honour, he had sacri- 
ficed large sums of money, and his prospects were by no 
means bright. He could only hope that time might elicit 
the truth and bring about a revulsion of feeling in his 
favour. Meanwhile, he turned to his usual panacea, work, 
diverted his mind as far as possible from the great cam- 
paign, which he knew would be conducted ably by all 
his fellow-fighters in Paris, and began to pen his book on 
the causes of the depopulation of France. 

M. Desmoulin went to Paris to fetch the materials for 
" F^condit^ " ; servants were engaged and other arrange- 
ments made by Mrs. Vizetelly ; and her daughter, Violette, 
a Parisienne by birth, whose first words had been lisped 
in French, went to live with Zola to act as his inter- 
preter, and so far as her youthfulness permitted, take charge 
of housekeeping matters, A bicycle was provided for 


Zola, and when he was not writing or reading he and 
his young ward pedalled through the country around 
"Walton and Weybridge. On those occasions Zola made 
frequent use of a camera which M. Desmoulin had brought 
from France, and the writer holds a large collection of 
photographs taken by him, little views of villages, com- 
mons, farms, churches, reaches of the Thames, glimpses 
of the Wye, Windsor Castle, the Crystal Palace, and so 

Eventually, to give him some solace amid his loneli- 
ness, it was arranged that the little boy and girl to whom 
reference has been made in a previous chapter should be 
brought to England and stay with him for a short time. 
Madame Zola also managed to travel backward and for- 
ward on various occasions. When the tenancy at Penn 
expired, another house called " Sumrnerfield," with large 
secluded grounds, on Spinney Hill at Addlestone, was se- 
cured for Zola. Here, still writing " F^eondit4" he remained 
until late in the autumn of 1898. M. Charpentier was 
for a few days a visitor ; an excursion was made to Windsor 
and a few other places ; but the novelist's life would have 
been not only very retired but also quite peaceful If it 
had not been for the acute emotion into which he was 
thrown, the shocks he experienced every now and then, 
as the result of some important news from Paris. The 
friends who wished to communicate with him had to 
forward their letters to Mr. Wareham, Zola's actual address 
being known only to the latter, the Vizetellys, M. Char- 
pentier, and a Wimbledon gentleman, Mr. A. W. Pamplin, 
whose services had been required. The "master," as one 
often called him, assumed at that time a variety of names 


which were suggested by Vizetelly, the latter objecting to 
(t Pascal," the first Zola had taken, for it might have proved 
a guide to any French process-server acquainted with " Le 
Docteur Pascal," the novelist's well-known book. Vizetelly 
therefore proposed some names which would not attract 
much attention and might pass as being either English 
or French. At Oatlands Park and Penn, therefore, Zola 
was known as Beauchamp ; at Summerfield as Eoger (akin 
to Eogers) ; and at the Queen's Hotel, Norwood, whither he 
ultimately removed, as Eichard, which suggested Eichards. 
Vizetelly was in constant communication with him and fre- 
quently at Penn and Summerfield. At other times hardly 
a day passed without an exchange of notes, mostly, how- 
ever, on trivial little matters connected with Zola's re- 
quirements, his bicycle, his photographs, the books he 
wanted, a supply of manuscript paper, some passing trouble 
with a servant, the difficulty of getting fish, or the replies 
to be given to journalists or others. Here is a rather more 
interesting note which Zola wrote on July 29, when he 
was moving from the Oatlands Park Hotel, where he had 
attracted some little attention : 

I am worried that I cannot occupy Penn until Monday, for I 
feel that my stay here without Madame Beauchamp, 1 whose 
arrival I announced, is beginning to seem strange. However it 
is necessary to accept the situation. To throw people off the 
scent this is what we must do. Let me be fetched on Monday 
between two and three in the afternoon with one of the convey- 
ances at the station [Walton-on-Thames], not one belonging to 
the hotel. The vehicle can wait while I pay my bill, and after- 
wards we can all drive to the station as if I were going to Lon- 

1 Madame Zola had "been expected, "but, "being watched, had been unable 
as yet to leave Paris. 


don. At the station you wiE have left the trunk which will 
then certainly have arrived from Paris at Wareham's house or 
yours. On reaching the station from the hotel, one can claim 
the valise, wait awhile, then take another conveyance and drive 
to the house [Penn]. For my part I will not get into that sec- 
ond conveyance, I will go to the house on foot. I think that will 
be the wisest course. 

On the other hand, we shall have to tell a little tale here. 
For instance, you might say that as Madame Beauchamp is de- 
tained in France beside a sick relative for a longer time than I 
anticipated and I feel very much bored alone [M. Desmouiin had 
gone to France] , I am, going back to London to stay with some 
friends till she arrives. And you might add that if we wish to 
come back and spend a month here, we will warn them by letter, 
inquiring if they have a suitable room. When you come you might 
bring me forty postage stamps for France and ten for London. 
Again thanks for your devotion, and very cordially yours. 


If you read any serious news from France in the newspapers, 
let me know at once Desmouiin has arrived at this very mo- 
ment with the trunk. I shall be better able to wait now that 
my friend is here. 

Among other notes of about the same date are the fol- 

My dear Confrere What French books have you? Can you 
lend me La Brnyere's " Caraeteres " and Stendhal's "Chartreuse 
de Parme" not his "Rouge et Noir"? 

I have received the books, and thank you infiniment, for they 
helped me to spend a good day yesterday. I shall expect you 
to-morrow at six o'clock, and we will take a decision about the 
house. My homage to Madame Vizetelly, Affectionately yours, 1 

1 This note was signed "imile Zola, "hut thinking that imprudent, her 
carried Ms pen violently over the signature, producing an extraordinary com- 


My dear Confrere, Please let me have six boxes of photo- 
graphic plates similar to the others. Cau you lend me "Les 
Chouans," " Cesar Birotteau," "La Recherche de PAbsohi," "Les 
Illusions perdues," by Balzac. If not, please buy them the 
edition at 1 fr. 25 c. 

In addition to books, Zola was of course kept well sup- 
plied with newspapers, both ITrench and English. Vizetelly 
procured him an English grarnmar for French students and 
other works, and with this help he picked up sufficient 
knowledge of the English language to understand the news 
telegraphed from Paris about the Dreyfus case. In all such 
news he naturally took the keenest interest. On August 31 
Vizetelly received from Paris a telegram to be transmitted 
to him, a telegram to this effect : " Be prepared for a great 
success." It greatly puzzled Zola when it reached him, for 
there was nothing in the newspapers he had seen to which 
it could refer. However, a score of possibilities in connec- 
tion with the Dreyfus case immediately occurred to him, 
and he spoke of them in presence of Vizetelly's daugh- 
ter, passing from one surmise to another and becoming 
quite feverish as his impatience to know the meaning of 
the mysterious "wire" increased. His young companion 
was undoubtedly upset by his strange excitement, which 
gained on her also, in such wise that she passed a very 
restless night, beset repeatedly by a dream in which she 
fancied herself in some strange, big, dark place where a 

Hnation of Hots and scratches. Sometimes lie signed t( Em. Beauchamp," at 
others "J. Beauchamp," and "B." Later, he ventured on a "Z." Very 
few of his notes of that time bear his name in full. Moreover, for fear of 
the Cabinet Noir (the petit "bleu affair showed that one existed), his letters 
to Paris were usually addressed by Yizetelly to a person who transmitted 
them to those for whom they were intended. 


man lay on the ground surrounded by people who raised 
numerous exclamations in the French language. In the 
midst of it all, moreover, she saw Zola waving his arms and 
looking well satisfied. He, on the following morning, hav- 
ing heard her calling in her sleep, spoke to her of it with 
some concern, and she then told him of her dream, of which 
at first he could make neither head nor tail. But shortly 
afterwards, when the newspapers arrived, he found in them 
an account of the arrest and confession of Colonel Henry, 
the forger, followed by a brief telegram : " Paris, Midnight. 
Colonel Henry has been found dead in his cell at Mont 

The telegram which Vizetelly had transmitted to him was 
then explained : it had certainly referred to Henry's arrest 
and confession. As for the announcement of the colonel's 
death following the story of Violette Vizetelly J s curious 
dream, one can only say that this may have been merely 
a coincidence, though Zola and others were certainly im- 
pressed by it. When the writer related the incident in a 
previous work, 1 in a more detailed manner than he has done 
here, some critics declared that he taxed their credulity, par- 
ticularly as he was unwilling to allow the case to be tested. 
But he must adhere to what he stated then. If he depre- 
cated investigation it was solely because, as a parent, he did 
not wish to perturb or to encourage any morbidity of mind 
in a curiously impressionable girl of sixteen, on whose 
account, and in much the same connection, he had pre- 
viously experienced some anxiety, which later years have 
happily dispelled. 

After Henry's death Zola was in hopes of soon returning 

1 " "With Zola in England," p. 135 


to France, but Ms friends urged him to remain where he 
was, for his name was still like a torch which might re- 
kindle the conflagration. Moreover, as the revision of the 
Dreyfus case was delayed for some weeks longer, Zola 
again began to feel anxious. Important incidents were 
certainly occurring in France. Scarcely had General Zurlin- 
den replaced M. Cavaignac as War Minister when Ester- 
hazy took to flight, anticipating, no doubt, the important 
communications respecting certain forgeries in the Dreyfus 
case which Colonel Picquart made to the Minister of Justice 
a few days later. At last, on Sunday, September 15, some 
indication of what was about to occur in Paris appeared in 
a few of the London papers which Yizetelly sent to Zola, 
who replied: 

"Thank you for sending the papers by Eene. 1 Details are 
wanting evidently; but, to my mind, the report is decisive, re- 
vision is certain. It is now only necessary to have patience, 
patience which will perhaps have to be of some duration. * . . 
I am rather poorly to-day, it is one of those nervous crises which 
torture me whenever I work too much or when I have under- 
gone too great a shock." 

Two days later General Zurlinden, who had stubbornly 
opposed revision at the Council of Ministers, resigned the 
office of War Minister (in which he was succeeded by 
General Chanoine) and resumed the duties of Military 
Governor of Paris ; in which capacity, to revenge himself for 
the recent disclosures of Colonel Picquart, he cast the latter 
into a military prison. Then, on September 23, a process- 
server appeared at Zola's house to levy execution in virtue 

1 Victor Rene* Yizetelly, the writer's son. 


of the judgment obtained by the handwriting experts. 1 All 
those incidents and also the Fashoda trouble, which if it 
had ended badly would have compelled Zola to leave Eng- 
land affected the novelist's health, but he fretted more 
particularly on account of the ailing state of a pet dog, a 
toy Pomeranian named the Chevalier de Perlinpinpin, but 
familiarly called Pinpin only which he had been obliged 
to leave in Paris, foreign dogs not being admitted into 
England. Madame Zola was then in Paris in charge of the 
little animal and did everything possible for it, but it 
pined for its master, whose constant companion it had been, 
on whose writing-table and in whose wastepaper basket it 
had been for years accustomed to lie. 

Zola was passionately attached to his dogs and other 
animals, as his writings testify; 2 and when he learnt the 
truth about Pinpin, which was kept from him for a time, he 
grieved exceedingly and became quite ill, experiencing an 
attack of the angina from which he suffered periodically. 
As he would not see a doctor some medicine he was accus- 
tomed to take in such cases was obtained from France. 
But more than once Vizetelly became alarmed respecting 
him, for the stifling fits left him quite exhausted, " I shall 
die like this some day/' he said more than once, " but it is 
useless to get a doctor. There is nothing to be done beyond 
what I do/' 

Thus, still and ever, he fretted about his dog, particularly 
if a day or two passed without the receipt of a letter or a 

1 Zola had appealed against the first judgment, "but on August 10 the 
Appeal Court confirmed the conviction, altering the original penalty (see ante, 
p. 463) to one of a month's imprisonment, a thousand francs' fine, and ten 
thousand francs' damages for each of the three plaintiffs. 

3 See notahly his articles "Pour les Betes" and " Enfin Couronn^ " in 
"Nouvelle Campagne." 


telegram respecting its condition. On or about September 
26 Vizetelly went to him with the important news that 
M. Brisson had at last referred the revision of the Dreyfus 
case to the Cour de Cassation. Such tidings seemed 
likely to cheer him ; but directly he caught sight of Vize- 
telly he exclaimed, " A telegram ! About Pinpin ? " And 
when Vizetelly answered no, his face fell, and scarcely 
listening to the good news he sank back on the sofa, mut- 
tering, " Ah ! if it had only been about my poor dog ! " 
A few days later he learnt that Pinpin was dead. Then for 
a moment he remained grieving piteously. But all at once, 
shaking his fist, he shouted, " The scoundrels ! it was they 
who killed him!" referring of course to the anti- 

But it was only suspense that unnerved Zola either with 
regard to the episodes of the Affair or in connection with 
his dog. Confronted by the inevitable in the case of 
Pinpin, he braced himself and began to mend. Soon after- 
wards (October 10), an execution having been duly levied at 
his house in the Rue de Bruxelles, a sale took place there. 
In the throng which then assembled were many admirers 
who hoped to be able to purchase souvenirs. But Zola 
had previously arranged that whatever might be the article 
first offered for sale, M. Fasquelle, his publisher, should bid 
the full amount of the execution. This was done; the 
auctioneer put up a Louis XIII table and M. Fasquelle bid 
thirty-two thousand francs 1 for it, at which price it became 
nominally his property. The sale was then finished, and 
the would-be buyers of souvenirs retired disappointed. 

Late in October, when the Cour de Cassation, accepting 
the question of revision in principle, began its famous in- 

1 1,280 = $6,400. 

Zola's Dining-Room 


quiry, and when M. Brisson fell from office to be succeeded 
by M. Dupuy, Zola was removed from Addlestone 1 to the 
Queen's Hotel, Upper Norwood, where he remained till the 
end of his stay in England. He was still writing " IMcon- 
ditd," to which he devoted all his mornings ; and occupying 
a small suite of rooms in one of the pavilions of the hotel, 
taking his meals in private and holding no intercourse with 
his neighbours, his loneliness increased, though Norwood 
around him was teeming with life. At intervals, however, 
he now received a few visits from friends. The first who 
came was M. Yves G-uyot, who had championed the cause 
of Dreyfus in " Le Si&cle," which he directed, from the out- 
set. With him was an English friend, Mr. J. H. Levy, 
of the Personal Rights' Association. Later came M. Jaur&s, 
the famous French Socialist leader, another champion of 
the good cause; later still, Zola's old friend, M. Theodore 
Duret, the historian of the early years of the Third Repub- 
lic. M. Fasquelle and M. Octave Mirbeau also saw the 
novelist at this time ; and about Easter, 1899, Maitre Labori 
paid a flying visit to England to consult him. There was 
one American visitor, Mr. Brett of the New York Macmillan 
Company, and a few English ones : Mr. George Moore, Mr. 
Lucien Wolf, Mr. Chatto and his partner, Mr. Percy Spal- 
ding. But those visits, besides being brief, were spread over 
a period of seven or eight months. Madame Zola certainly 
joined her husband for some part of the time, but the travel- 
ling, and more particularly the English climate, tried her 
health exceedingly, and for some weeks she was laid up. 

1 Before leaving Addlestone he wrote for the London " Star" a short story 
called " Angeline," based on a tale of a haunted house current at Walton- 
on-Thames. The French text appeared in "La Grande Revue, " edited by 
M. Labori. in 1899. 


For tlie rest, the Vizetellys and the Warehams were fre- 
quently at Norwood, and there was still no little correspond- 
ence between the novelist and his translator. Here are a 
couple of notes written by Zola early in 1899 : 

January 3, '99. 

My dear Confrere and Friend, I have just telegraphed to 
you that the whole story about an English journalist having inter- 
viewed me is purely and simply a lie. I have seen nobody. Be- 
sides, there can be no question of extraditing me : they could only 
serve me with the judgment of 'the Assize Court. Those people 
don't even know what they write about. As for 's indis- 
cretion, this is much to be regretted. I am writing to him. For 
the sake of our communications I have always desired that Ware- 
ham's name and address should be known only to those on whom 
one can depend. Tell Wareham to remain on his guard and never 
acknowledge that he knows my address. 1 Persevere in that course 
yourself. That will suffice for the moment. I will wait a few days 
to see if anything occurs, before deciding whether the correspond- 
ence arrangements should be altered. It would be a big affair ; 
and I should afterwards regret a change if it were to prove uncalled 
for. So I repeat, let us wait. 

Thursday, February 16, '99. 

My dear Confrere, You did right to refuse Mr. my 

address. I absolutely decline to see anybody. Whoever may call 
on you, under whatever pretext, show him the door and preserve 
the silence of the tomb. Less than ever am, I in a humour to let 
people disturb me ! As for Mr. Chatto and his partner, as you 
and they know, I shall be delighted to see them ; but as you are 
also aware, my wife is at this moment very poorly indeed, and I 
am in a very low state myself. We should be sorry hosts, so 
kindly ask our friends to postpone the visit till a little later. Our 
amities to you and yours. Z. 

1 In explanation of the above, it may be mentioned that Mr. "Wareham's 
position as Zola's intermediary had come to the knowledge of a journalist 
through, the indiscretion of a friend in Paris. 


On the day the second of the above letters was written, 
President Fdlix Faure died suddenly and under what 
seemed to be suspicious circumstances. It is probable that 
his seizure was caused by the shock he had experienced a 
few hours previously when certain revelations made to him 
by a foreign visitor of princely rank had dispelled his con- 
fidence in some of the prominent military men whom he 
had so long trusted and supported. The news naturally 
filled Zola with anxiety, for the future course of events 
might largely depend on the character of M. Faure's suc- 
cessor. Fortunately the choice of the French Congress fell 
on M. Emile Loubet, then President of the Senate. Other 
important incidents M. D&roulfede's attempt at a coup 
d'etat, the transference of the revision of the Dreyfus case 
from the Criminal Chamber of the Cour de Cassation to the 
entire body kept Zola in a nervous state throughout 
February and March. His birthday fell on April 2, and 
Vizetelly, finding it impossible to be with him on that occa- 
sion, wrote him a note to which he replied as follows : 

My dear Confrere and Friend, Thanks for your good wishes 
on the occasion of the anniversary of my birth. I feel deeply 
touched by them in the state of sorrowful emotion in which I 
am. You write me some very good and true things which go 
straight to my heart. And I thank you to-day for the devotion 
and the discreet attention which you have never ceased to show 
me since the day when I set foot on this land of exile. I shall 
expect you the day you please to select, and with kind remem- 
brances to your family, I cordially press your hand. 


As the time for the decision of the Cour de Cassation 
drew near, the novelist became more and more restless. He 


finished " F&onditd " in May, and on the twenty-seventh, of 
that month decided that whatever might be the judgment of 
the court, he would return to France directly it was given. 
Everything pointed to a favourable issue, and in that an- 
ticipation he drafted a declaration which he proposed to 
issue in " L'Aurore " on his arrival in Paris. On the even- 
ing of June 3 he received a telegram worded, "Cheque 
postponed," which, in accordance with previous arrange- 
ments, signified that revision had been granted and that 
Dreyfus would have to appear before a new court-martial. 
Had the words been "Cheque unpaid," they would have 
meant "Revision refused," while "Cheque paid" would 
have signified not only that revision was accorded but that 
Dreyfus would not even be tried afresh. For a long time 
previously Zola had been receiving similar telegrams which, 
in accordance with a plan devised by him, were full of hid- 
den meaning. 

M. Fasquelle and his wife were then in London, .and 
it was speedily arranged that Zola, who was now in high 
spirits, should return to France with them on the following 
night, Sunday, June 4. This he did, quitting England 
without regret since he was going home ; though he repeat- 
edly acknowledged that everything possible had been done 
for his comfort, and that he had seen a great deal that 
interested him keenly. He appreciated the wonderful 
change which seemed to have come over the English press 
with respect to himself, and he was grateful also to the 
various persons who had recognised him and preserved 
discretion. 1 

1 On June 7 lie wrote to Vizetelly: "Excuse me for not having written 
to you at once. I have been caught and carried off in such a whirl that I 


About the hour when he reached Paris on the morning of 
June 5, " L'Aurore " appeared with his declaration " Jus- 
tice I " a translation of which was issued the same day in 
"The Westminster Gazette." 1 After recalling under what 
circumstances he had been obliged to leave France, men- 
tioning how he had been threatened and insulted and how 
cruelly he had suffered both before and during his exile, Zola 
reviewed the many developments of the Dreyfus case. And 
he continued: 

"Now, as truth has been made manifest and justice has been 
granted, I return. I desire to do so as quietly as possible, in the 
serenity of victory, without giving any occasion for public disturb- 
ances. Those treat me unworthily who would confound me with 
the base folk who batten on public demonstrations. Even as 
I remained quiet abroad, so shall I resume my seat at the national 
hearth like a peaceful citizen who wishes to disturb none, but only 
desires to resume his usual work without giving people any occa- 
sion to occupy themselves further about him." 

He disclaimed, he said, all reward or applause, for no 
merit attached to what he had done. The cause was so 
beautiful, so human. Truth had conquered, and it could not 
have been otherwise. Then he added : 

" Moreover, my reward I have it already ; it is that of thinking 
of the innocent man whom I have helped to extricate from the living 
tomb in which he had been plunged in agony for four long years. 
Ah ! I confess that the idea of his return, the thought of seeing 
him free and of pressing his hands in mine, overwhelms me with 
extraordinary emotion, fills my eyes with happy tears ! That 

have not yet had a moment to myself. I made on the whole a very satisfac- 
tory journey, not a soul recognised me, and here everything is for the best," 

1 The numerous articles on the Dreyfus case which the writer contributed 
to that journal were largely inspired by Zola. 



moment will suffice to repay me for all my worries. My friends 
and I will have done a good deed for which every good heart in 
France will remember us gratefully. And what more could one 
desire 1 a family that will love us, a wife and children who 
will bless us, a man who will owe it to us that in him has become 
embodied the triumph of equity and human solidarity." 

Afterwards, referring to " J' Accuse," he said : 

" Do people remember the abominable clamour which greeted 
my Letter to the President of the Republic 1 I was the insulter of 
the Army, a man who had sold himself, a man without fatherland ! 
Literary friends, in their consternation and fright, drew away 
from me, abandoned me to the horror of my crime. Articles were 
indeed written which will weigh heavily on the consciences of 
those who signed them. Itfever, it was urged, had the most brutal 
of writers, a madman full of sickly pride, dared to address a more 
insulting and more mendacious letter to the Chief of the Sfcate ! 
And now just reperuse my poor letter. I have become a trifle 
ashamed of it ashamed of its discretion, its opportunism, I 
will almost say its cowardice. ... I had greatly softened things 
in it ; I had even passed some by in silence, some which are 
manifest to-day and acknowledged, but of which I then still 
wished to doubt. To tell the truth, yes, I already suspected 
Henry, but I had no proofs. So I thought it best to leave him 
out of the case. And I divined other matters, for confidential in- 
formation had come fco me unsolicited, information so terrible 
that, fearing its frightful consequences, I did not think that I 
ought to make it public. Yet now those confidences have been 
revealed, have become commonplace truisms. And my poor letter 
is no longer up to date ; it seems quite childish, a mere skit, the 
paltry invention of some timid novelist, by the side of the truth, 
so superb and fierce. . . There was not an unnecessary word in it, 
there was nothing but the grief of a citizen respectfully soliciting jus- 
tice of the Chief of his country. But such has been the everlasting 
history of my writings I have never been able to pen a book, a 


page even, without being covered with falsehood and insult, though 
on the morrow my assailants have been constrained to admit that 
I was in the right." 

After indicating that he personally harboured no anger or 
rancour against anybody, Zola pointed out that, in the public 
interest, some example ought to be made of the wrong- 
doers, for otherwise the masses would never believe in the 
immensity of the crime. "But," said he, "I leave to 
Nemesis the task of completing her work. I shall not aid 
her." Then came an impassioned appeal on behalf of the 
noble and persecuted Colonel Picquart, for the good work 
would only be complete when justice had been done him. 
And Zola continued : 

" All former political parties have now collapsed, and there re- 
main but two camps, that of the reactionary forces of the past, 
and that of the men bent on inquiry, truth, and uprightness, who 
are marching towards the future. That order of battle alone is 
logical ; it must be retained in order that to-morrow may be ours. 
To work, then ! By pen, by speech, and by action ! To work for 
progress and deliverance 1 'Twill be the completion of the task of 
1789, a pacific revolution in mind and in heart, the democracy 
welded together, freed from evil passions, based at last on the just 
law of labour which will permit an equitable apportionment of 
wealth. Thenceforward France a free country, France a dispenser 
of justice, the harbinger of the equitable society of the coming 
century, will once more find herself a sovereign among the nations. 
And there exists no empire, however cased in mail it be, but will 
crumble when France shall have given justice to the world even as 
she has already given it liberty. I believe in no other historical 
rdle for her henceforward ; never yet will she have known such a 
splendour of glory." 

The conclusion followed : 


" I am at home. The Public Prosecutor may therefore signify 
to me, whenever he pleases, the sentence of the Versailles Assizes 
condemning me by default to a year's imprisonment and three 
thousand francs fine. And we shall once more find ourselves be- 
fore a jury. In provoking a prosecution I only desired truth and 
justice. To-day they are here. My case can now serve no useful 
purpose; it no longer even, interests me. Justice simply has to say 
whether it be a crime to desire truth." 1 

Unfortunately subsequent events confirmed only some of 
Zola's generous anticipations. M. Dupuy fell from power 
on June 12, M. Waldeck-Kousseau succeeded him on the 
22d, Dreyfus landed in Trance on July 1, and the new 
court-martial on him assembled at Eennes on August 8. 
His partisans were at first full of hope, but various incidents 
supervening (among others, a dastardly attempt to assassi- 
nate Maitre Labori), no little anxiety returned. Zola had 
remained in seclusion at MMan, 2 glancing at the final proofs 
of " F<3condit4" which was appearing serially in " I/Aurore," 
and thinking of his next work, " Travail." Meantime Vize- 
telly was repeatedly solicited by English editors to induce 
him to write something about the court-martial, but he was 
unwilling to do so for any foreign newspapers, and besides, 
as he put it, it was neither right nor possible to say anything 

1 The full text will be found in " La Verite" en Marche." 

2 He had written to Vizetelly, under date July 20, 1899 : " I am at last 
sending you the promised photographs, and apologise for the delay. You can 
have no idea of the worries that have assailed ine. I have often regretted the 
quietude of Queen's Hotel already. However, everything is going for the 
best, the happy d&nowmmt is approaching, and I start for Medan on Tuesday 
to take a rest. I have read in ' Le Matin ' your articles on iny stay in 
England. They are trks lien, they have skilfully remained within the limits 
which I asked you not to exceed. . . . Thanks again. I press your hand 
affectionately. Emile Zola." The articles referred to were those reprinted as 
"Zola in England," 


until the verdict was given. He communicated with Vize- 
telly several times on these matters, on one occasion sending 
a card on which, in spite of all the bad rumours, he indicated 
his confidence in the result of the proceedings : " My dear 
friend," he said, " I will say nothing, and I "beg you to say 
nothing in my name. One must wait firmly for victory." 1 
On September 9, however, the unfortunate Dreyfus was 
once more found guilty of the crime he had never com- 
mitted. Zola, still at M4dan, was profoundly shocked and 
horrified by the verdict, and again he published a dec- 
laration, " Le Cinqui&me Acte," 2 in which he expressed his 
fear that the truth might fall on France from Germany in a 
manner which might have the most terrible consequences. 
The result of the trial certainly caused amazement all the 
world over. In Great Britain the indignation was extreme, 
and a proposal to boycott the Exhibition which was to be 
held in Paris in 1900 was agitated by several newspapers. 
Vizetelly was appealed to by some who felt that Zola might 
be able to quiet the outcry, and an offer of two shillings a 
word for an article which might run to ten thousand words, 
was made to him by the editor of a London newspaper. 
But even this proposal was declined by Zola, who wrote to 
Vizetelly on September 14: 

My dear Confrere and Eriend, I do not take payment in 
France for my articles on the Dreyfus case, and still less would I 
accept money from a foreign newspaper. As for intervening be- 
tween France and the world, I will not and cannot do so, for all sorts 
of reasons* Besides, in spite of the gravity of the symptoms, I do not 
believe that our Exhibition is seriously threatened. I still wish to 
believe that France will do what may be necessary to be in a posi- 

card in question accompanies the present volume. 
2 See "La Ve*rit6 en Marche," p. 147 et seq. 


tion of dignity next May when she will receive her guests. All 
this between ourselves, this letter is absolutely for you alone. 
You would cause me the greatest grief by the slightest indiscre- 
tion. . . . Thanks for the English newspapers you have sent. I 
have just read them with keen interest. But all that does not 
frighten me much." 1 

Five days later the unhappy Dreyfus accepted the pardon 
offered him by President Loubet, and Zola then addressed a 
beautiful, pathetic letter to the poor martyr's wife, in which 
lie gave her the assurance that his friends and himself would 
continue the battle until both her husband and France should 
be fully rehabilitated. 2 

In October " Fdcondit<" was published as a volume, and 
dealing as it did with, a problem of national importance, the 
decline in. the birth-rate and the massacre of infantile life 
in France, it attracted widespread attention. It was a very 
outspoken book, but a necessary one, and its exposure of the 
vices of married life was one to be applied to other countries 
besides France. But Vizetelly, who remembered the past 
and knew that Pecksniffs and Podsnaps still flourished in 
England, felt that the national cant would not suffer a plain 
statement of the truth. Some difficulty occurred therefore 
with respect to the translation of " F^condit^/' the English 
version of which had to be considerably curtailed. In 
France the sale of the original work was assisted by the 
fact that after all the abominations of the Affair a certain 
number of Zola's former admirers were now gradually re- 
turning to him. 8 

1 A. foe-simile of the above letter is given with, the present volume, 
a " La Ve"rit<$ en Marche," p. 163 et seq. 

8 "Recondite." Paris, Fasquelle, 1899, 18mo, 751 pages. Some copies 
on special papers; a few in two vols. 8vo. Ninety-fourth, thousand in 1901, 


His remaining share in the Dreyfus case may be dealt 
with briefly. The victim was at last free, restored to his 
wife and children; and thus a great part of Zola's object 
had been achieved. The charge against the novelist of 
having libelled the Esterhazy court-martial still had to be 
considered, but his trial was repeatedly postponed in 
consequence of the government bringing an Amnesty Bill 
before the legislature. Zola repeatedly protested against 
the measure, addressing long letters to both the Senate and 
President Loubet on the subject. 1 He did not wish to be 
amnestied but judged, and he thought it abominable that 
the same law should be applied to him and other defenders 
of the truth as to all the evil-doers who had persecuted 
Dreyfus, screened the scoundrel Esterhazy, and made use 
of every possible lie, forgery, and fraud, in order to obscure 
the truth, deceive the nation, and prevent justice from being 
done. But Zola's protests, whether by letter or by word 
of mouth, before the Senatorial Committee, which received 
him on March 14, 1900, were of no more avail than 
those of Dreyfus himself, M. Joseph Reinach, and Colonel 
Picquart. In point of fact M. Waldeck-Rousseau, the Prime 
Minister, was most concerned about the Clericalist peril 
behind the Affair, the strenuous efforts which bishops, 
priests, and particularly religious orders had been making 
to capture France. They had used the Dreyfus case as a 
weapon ; under their secret direction it had proved indeed 
a powerful one, and in M. Waldeck-Kousseau's opinion, 
before all else, it was necessary to deprive them of it. For 
that purpose he devised the Amnesty in the hope that he 

1 See his letters in " La V^rite' en Marche," p. 181 and p. 205 ; also others 
in "L'Aurore," March 10 and 15, 1900. 


would thereby kill the Affair, put it out of the way, before 
dealing with the religious orders. The right course would 
have been to proceed against the compromised members of 
the General Staff, but after the Rennes verdict M. Waldeck- 
Rousseau had not the courage to do so. Besides, in that 
matter he was largely in the hands of his own War Min- 
ister, General de Galliffet. France was committed to the 
Amnesty long before General Andr arose to enforce obe- 
dience in the higher ranks of the army. And thus for 
political reasons a crowning iniquity was perpetrated. 
Impunity was assured to the Merciers, the Boisdeffres, the 
Billots, and all the others. At the most they lost their 
military positions. Every criminal action in the Affair was 
stopped and prohibited by the Amnesty Bill, which became 
law in November, 1900. The privileges of parties in civil 
actions were alone reserved, though at the same time 
Captain Dreyfus retained the right to apply for further 
revision and even rehabilitation whenever he might dis- 
cover the necessary new facts. At that moment it was 
scarcely imagined in high places that he would do so. M. 
Waldeck-Rousseau, like many another before him, fancied 
that he had indeed killed the Affair; but at the time of 
writing these lines it is once more before the Cour de 

It should be added that, prior to the Amnesty, Zola had 
been acquitted of the charge of traducing Judet of "Le 
Petit Journal," who had so foully attacked his father's 
memory ; and had moreover secured a judgment condemn- 
ing the unprincipled journalist to pay him five thousand 
francs' damages. Judet, however, carried the case to the 
Appeal Court, and it long remained in abeyance. Finally, 

Photo by femile Zola 

Mme. Zola at the Queen's Hotel, Upper Norwood 
January, 1899 


in a letter addressed to tyfaitre Labor! on March 7, 1901, 
Zola renounced all further action in this case as well 
as in one instituted against the handwriting experts for 
the purpose of setting aside the judgment by which they 
had levied an execution on the novelist's furniture. " Let 
them keep the money, let them go off with their pockets 
full," wrote Zola; "the bitter irony of it all will be the 
greater, and there will be yet a little more baseness in 
the Affair." For his part he did not wish that the great 
battle in a high and noble cause should end in sordid 
squabbles about sums of money. Though it was said 
that the Amnesty effaced everything, the Public Prosecu- 
tion Office had retained the fines and costs levied upon 
him, and this, again, he regarded as monstrous ; but he 
repeated that he did not wish to drag the cause through 
petty proceedings based on personal interest. The truth 
would not come from them, though assuredly it would 
come eventually. 

That Zola spent a large amount of money in connection 
with the Dreyfus case is certain; for besides the costs of 
all the legal proceedings (criminal and civil) against him, 
which remained heavy notwithstanding the disinterested- 
ness of Maftre Labori, he often contributed considerable 
sums for objects connected with the cause. Moreover, 
although both "Paris" and "Fcondit<5" sold fairly well, 
thanks to the foreign demand, a very great drop oc- 
curred in the circulation of the novelist's earlier works, for 
which there had been a steady sale in previous years. It 
may be estimated that in 1897 Zola's income was be- 
tween seven and eight thousand pounds. In 1898, the 
year of " J' Accuse," it was not more than a third of that 


figure. He sold the serial rights of " Incondite " to " L'Au- 
rore " for about half the amount he had been receiving for 
his works from other journals previous to the Affair ; and it 
was not published as a volume till late in 1899, in which 
year also his income remained a low one. Indeed, it never 
rose again to its former figure. His book " Travail," of which 
something will be said in our next chapter, was only a demi- 
succes from the pecuniary standpoint. And as all this was, 
in the main, the result of his participation in the Dreyfus 
case, it will be seen that he made no small sacrifices for 
the cause he championed. 

He found a sufficient reward, he said, in a quieter con- 
science, in the knowledge that he had done his duty as a 
man. Sympathy came to him, as one has mentioned, from 
many a foreign land, and of course he was not without 
sympathisers in France, his fellow-fighters of that lataillon 
sacre which by degrees became a small army. Subsequent 
to his condemnation in Paris in 1898, the newly founded 
Ligue des Droits de I'Homme, which was destined to recruit 
many soldiers for the good cause, opened, in conjunction with 
the newspapers which supported it, a subscription for a medal 
to be offered to Zola in recognition of his courage. In a few 
days over ten thousand francs were collected, and a superb 
gold medal, bearing the effigy of the novelist designed by M. 
Alexandre Oharpentier, and by its size, weight, and the qual- 
ity of the metal unique in numismatics, was struck. 1 Zola 

1 It was, so to say, a medallion, its diameter being about 7 inches (183 milli- 
metres), and its thickness about one eighth of an inch (3 millimetres}. It 
weighed 5.80 pounds troy. On the obverse was the novelist's effigy with the 
inscription, ffommage & Emile Zola; on the reverse, the inscription, 0, 
Vtoritt est en Marche et Men ne l'arr$tera, Emile Zola, 13 Janvier, 1898. A 
copy of the medal on a reduced scale (59 millimetres) was also given to Zola, 
and with the balance of the subscription money small copies in silver and 


however, was long unwilling to accept it, for victory was 
not yet won. At last, some time after Dreyfus was pardoned, 
he consented to do so ; and the presentation took place at 
the offices of " Le Si&cle," whose editor, M. Yves Guyot, 
was president of the subscription committee. Besides the 
Dreyfus family, Colonel Picquart, and the Laboris, many 
others who had fought the good fight were present; and 
in response to M. Guyot's address, Zola pronounced a short 
and feeling speech, towards the close of which he said: 
" Undoubtedly, if the question had only been one of saving 
an innocent man from his torturers, of restoring Dreyfus to 
his wife and children, our victory would be complete. The 
whole world holds him to be a martyr, his legal rehabilita- 
tion will soon follow all that frightful story is surely 
ended! But there was another dear to us, one who was 
poisoned, in peril of death, and that dear and great and 
noble one was Trance. . . . We dreamt of seeing her freed 
from ancient servitude, rising, with her artisans, her savants, 
her thinkers, to a new ideal, reconquering old Europe, not 
indeed by arms but by the ideas that liberate. Never had 
there occurred such an opportunity to give her a sound 
practical lesson, for we had set our hands upon the very 
rottenness that was eating into the cracking, decaying edi- 
fice; and we thought if we pointed it out that would be 
sufficient, that the house would be cleansed, rebuilt, prop- 
erly and substantially. But in that respect we have been 
beaten. They have decided merely to pass a sponge over 
the rottenness, so that the timbers will continue to crack 
and decay till the house at last comes down. For that rea- 

"bronze were distributed among the subscribers, others being sold to the 


son I am sad, for that reason I cannot sing victory. Dreyfus 
is free, but our France remains ill, feeling that she has not 
strength enough to bear the splendour of truth and justice. 
And yet I am hopeful, for I believe in her labour, in the 
power of her genius. A somewhat long period would have 
elapsed, perhaps, had I decided to await her complete recov- 
ery before accepting the medal which has been laid aside for 
so many months in the expectation of a beautiful dawn. So 
I accept it now with emotion and with gratitude. And I 
hope that I shall not die before I see, reflected in its pure 
gold, that rising dawn of supreme national glory which we 
have all desired." 



1901 1902 

Zola's attempts at constructive writing His evolution toward Socialism 
Some further remarks on ' Fe'condite " *' Travail" and the pacific evo- 
lution of the working classes Zola and the tastes of his readers Pub- 
lication of " Travail " " I/Ouragan " Zola's difficulties with ' " Ye'rite' " 
He is haunted by the Dreyfus case He adapts it to "Ve"rite " His 
evolution in religious matters His Positivism His opinion of the 
French Protestants His last days Announcement of his death 
Account and cause of it The autopsy -~ Madame Zola's illness 
Reception of the news in France and abroad Insults and tributes of 
sympathy Preparations for the funeral The question, of military 
honours Difficulties with Captain Dreyfus The obsequies A great 
demonstration The speeches at the graveside M. Anatole France's 
stirring oration. 

UNTIL Zola began his last series, " Les Quatre fivangiles," 
he had been, virtually all his life, a writer of the so-called 
destructive school, that is to say he had directed attention 
to an infinity of things which in his opinion ought to be 
swept away, but he had said little indeed of what he would 
set in their place. In like manner, within narrower limits, 
Charles Dickens and Charles Eeade had exposed abuses 
without indicating remedies. Zola for his part long held 
that remedial measures were not of his province. It was 
for the legislator to devise them, and there was no call for 
the author to go beyond an expose of the abuses which re- 
quired redress. Time and circumstances gradually modified 
that view, and in his last years, while persevering in his de- 
structive work, Zola made some attempt to couple re-con- 


struction with it. A suggestion of what was coming 
appeared already in the pages of his novel, " Paris," which 
concluded the trilogy of " Les Trois Villes." In that series 
he had shown Faith expiring, Hope a delusion, Charity a 
mockery ; but at the same time he had felt that if those 
guiding principles were to be discarded, they must be re- 
placed by others, Fruitf ulness, Work, Truth, and Justice. 

The scheme was of earlier date than the Dreyfus agitation, 
and no trace of the latter is to be found in " Fcondit," the 
first volume in which it was unfolded. But as Zola pro- 
ceeded with his work he was naturally influenced by all he 
had experienced and witnessed during the turmoil. As will 
presently be seen, the Affair eventually invaded his pages, 
but apart from that matter it hastened an evolution of his 
mind. He had begun life as an Individualist, it was as an 
unattached Socialist that he ended it, and this would have 
happened, no doubt, whether there had been a Dreyfus case 
or not. Without the Affair, however, the evolution might 
have remained less definite, less complete. The Affair 
showed him that the existing social edifice was in some 
respects even more rotten than he had previously believed. 
There could be no doubt of it, the facts were manifest ; and 
it followed that there was now less call for exposure than for 
remedial measures. As his opinions with regard to such 
measures differed largely from those of the men in power, 
the call upon him was all the greater. He therefore tried 
to indicate broadly on what lines reforms might proceed, 
and to sketch the future effect which such reforms might 
have on the community. 

It has been said that in his last works his imagination 
failed him, that it was quite spent, and that he could no 


longer have produced a work of art had he tried. That 
theory is wrong, based on ignorance of what was then in 
Zola's mind. If he had lived long enough to write the 
novel on the " Rat de I'Op&ca," l of which he talked so often 
to the present writer, the world would have seen that the 
powers of the novelist were undiminished. But in the great 
crisis through which France was passing Zola held that for 
a time, at all events, his duty lay in other work. 

" F^condite*," of which some mention was made in the 
previous chapter, treated a subject which had long haunted 
him in a measure for personal reasons but it was, of 
course, from the national standpoint that he dealt with 
it in his book. The question of the decline in the birth 
rate and the mortality among infants had not only occupied 
the attention of French sociologists and scientists for sev- 
eral years, but various novels based upon it had already 
been written novels indicating that the whole tendency 
of the times was to transform matrimony into legalised 
prostitution, in accordance with certain specious neo- 
Malthusian theories. Zola rightly held that unless that 
tendency were checked there could be no social regeneration 
at all. Thus he placed the subject in question at the head 
of his series. While he was preparing " Ffcondite* " in Eng- 
land the present writer was often able to glance at the 
documents, medical works, reports, letters from eminent 
scientists, and so forth, on which the novelist based his 
account of the noxious practices prevalent in various strata 
of French society, and he holds that far from " F^condite' " 
being an exaggerated picture it did not represent more than 
two-thirds of the actual truth. On the other hand, when 
Zola proceeded to sketch the healthy life which ought to 

1 See ante, p. 430. 


replace the existing one, enthusiasm led him further than 
was necessary, though, after all, he did not go beyond the 
provisions of the "marriage-books" which the French 
authorities hand to every bridegroom at the conclusion of 
the marriage ceremony books beginning with a signed 
and stamped certificate of the union just celebrated and^ 
continuing with enough blank forms to register the birth of 
twelve children the number which Zola bestowed on his 
hero and heroine, Mathieu and Marianne. 

Fruitfulness, said he, created the home, whence sprang 
the city ; and from the idea of citizenship that of the father- 
land proceeded. There could be no nation unless there 
were fruitf ulness, which became, then, a first national duty. 
The second was work, which Zola considered under various 
aspects in his next novel, " Travail" He held that every 
man ought to work for his own support and that of his 
family, and he also regarded work as a panacea for many 
ills. But he turned more particularly to the consideration 
of the circumstances under which work was done in the 
modern world, to the condition of the toilers generally, the 
great capital and labour problem. In that connection he 
was greatly influenced by the state of France at the time 
he wrote, the onward march of Socialism, the innumerable 
strikes, the complaints, the demands rising on all sides. 
He felt that matters could not remain as they were. But 
though he was in the higher sense a great fighter he was 
the adversary of mere brute force ; and dreading an armed 
collision between the classes, he tried to devise, to suggest, 
a pacific remedial evolution. 

As he was unwilling to imprison himself or anybody else 
within the narrow and stringent bonds of certain forms of 


Socialism, it was to the broader and more generous ideas of 
Charles Fourier that he finally inclined, striving to adapt them 
to the needs of a new century. It is certain that some of his 
suggestions remained nebulous, that several were not strictly 
practical, but it should be remembered that at the outset of 
" Les Quatre Evangiles " he had announced that the series 
would form a kind of "poem in prose, divided into four 
chants." It would be unfair to neglect that statement, for 
it shows he did not intend " Fcondit<5 " and " Travail " to 
be taken as severely practical works. They partook, as one 
has said, of a constructive character as opposed to Zola's 
earlier and purely destructive writings but they were not 
intended to be the final plans of an architect or an engineer, 
or the ultimate provisions of a new code. They were the 
roughest of sketches, so to say, suggestions which here and 
there might be found useful by those who might have to 
solve the problems which they reviewed. And it must be 
at least Admitted that their tendency was good. In " Fcon~ 
dit$ " it was most healthful; in " Travail" it was most pacific 
and calming, Zola's manifest intention being to quiet the 
angry passions of the hour, to direct Labour towards peace- 
able courses in its quest for the fulfilment of its aspirations. 
Such books cannot be judged as one would judge ordi- 
nary novels. They were, to a certain point, drafted in the 
form of novels in order that they might reach the great 
majority ; but Zola, with superb disdain, now cast many of 
the rules and conventions of novel-writing aside. After the 
publication of " Travail," Vizetelly sent him word that the 
English translation had been regarded less as a work of 
fiction than as a combination of sermon and pamphlet, 
to which the reviewers and the public did not seem to 



take very kindly. Zola replied under date of May 8, 

IC I have never consulted the tastes of the public, and I am 
too old nowadays to modify my work in order to please it. I 
am writing these books with a certain purpose before me, a 
purpose in which the question of form is of secondary importance. 
I have no intention of trying to amuse people or thrill them with 
excitement. I am merely placing certain problems before them, 
and suggesting in some respects certain solutions, showing what 
I hold to be wrong and what I think would be right. "When I 
have finished these 'Evangiles,' when 'Verite* and ( Justice' 
are written, it is quite possible that I shall write shorter and 
livelier books. Personally I should have everything to gain by 
doing so, but for the present I am fulfilling a duty which the 
state of my country imposes on me." 

Most of ^Travail" was written in 1900, in December 
of which year it began to appear in " I/Aurore." In April, 
1901, it was published as a volume. 1 A little later in the 
same year, the virulence of the Dreyfus agitation having 
subsided and public attention being turned to the Assump- 
tionists and other religious orders, in connection with 
M. Waldeck-Rousseau's Association Bill, the director of the 
Op&ra Comique in Paris thought the moment favourable 
for the production of a one-act lyrical drama, entitled 
ff I/Ouragan," the prose libretto of which, set to music by 
M. Bruneau, had been written by Zola some years pre- 
viously. " L'Ouragan " was not a particularly ambitious 
work and the moderate success it achieved was perhaps 
all that could have been expected for it. 

After the production of that piece Zola began to consider 
the subject of his next book, " V&itd," which gave him no 

1 "Travail," Paria, Fasquelle, 1901, 18mo, 666 pages; some copies OR 
special papers, etc. Seventy-seventh, thousand in 1903. 


little trouble. It seems likely that when he first planned 
his series he had thought of showing in this particular 
volume that scientific truth, and not the assertions, delu- 
sions, and errors of religious systems, should be taken as 
the guiding principle of life. But the Dreyfus case, which 
had intruded into a few pages of " Travail," haunted him. 
He knew that it had supplied one of the most shocking 
exhibitions of mendacity that the world had ever wit- 
nessed; and it followed that "V&rit6" ought not merely 
to inculcate a belief in scientific truth. It also ought to 
recall people to the practice of truthfulness in their every- 
day life. Thus Zola's subject expanded. He had always 
intended to show the evil effects of the training given to 
children in certain so-called religious schools, where, ac- 
cording to his view, their minds were perverted, deprived 
of all self-reliance by the intrusion of the supernatural. 
But the Dreyfus case had shown him there was more than 
that. The mendacity so current throughout the period of 
the Affair had come almost entirely from men trained by 
the Roman Church. Moreover that Church's share in the 
Affair, its hostility and its intrigues against the Republic 
under cover of the anti-Semitic agitation, were now every 
day more apparent. Zola had repeatedly declared that 
he would write no novel on the Dreyfus case, for he did 
not wish anybody to say that he had earned a single sou, 
directly or indirectly, by the Affair. But it was ever 
beside him, with its influence, its revelations, its lessons. 
And it seemed to him fit that everybody should understand 
that in one way and another such turmoil, frenzy, and 
mendacity would never have been possible if it had not 
been for the Roman Church. The case haunting him more 


and more, he gradually yielded to the obsession, resolving, 
however, to cast the military men on one side, for after all 
they had only been agents, in some degree the victims 
of their training. In lieu of them he would depict those 
whom he regarded as the real culprits. It had been settled 
that the book should deal with school life ; and it would be 
easy to adapt a kind^ of Dreyfus case to such surroundings. 
A Jewish schoolmaster might be substituted for a Jewish 
officer, while as for the crime which it would be necessary 
to impute to him, there had been a terrible affair at Lille, 
not long previously, the murder of a little boy, in which a 
certain Brother Flamidien who was spirited away by 
his colleagues had been implicated. Some such brother 
would represent Esterhazy in Zola's work, Dreyfus being 
represented by Simon, the Jewish schoolmaster. 

That Zola repeatedly hesitated with respect to this pas- 
tiche of the Dreyfus case is certain. In the summer of 1901 
he wrote to Vizetelly that he was preparing " Y6cit4," but 
that none of it would be ready for several months, for he 
was still doubtful whether he would introduce certain ele- 
ments into the work or not. Finally, as the only means, 
perhaps, of relieving his mind, he took the plunge, resolving 
upon an adaptation of the Affair on the lines one has indi- 
cated. Yet he again paused more than once, as he men- 
tioned in another letter. That was written on September 
12, when he further stated that he would have nothing 
ready until the ensuing month of January, 1902, when he 
wrote to Vizetelly: \ 

"Thanks for your good wishes for the New Tear, and pray 
accept ours for yourself and all your family. I find I shall not 
have * Vrit ' ready for publication as a book until next October, 


and that the feuilleton will not begin to appear until the early 
days of June. As you would like to have a few chapters in 
advance, however, I think I may be able to send the first ones 
about the end of next month. ... I wish you good health, good 
work, and am very cordially yours, 

Again there came delays, perhaps, because for the pur- 
poses of his book Zola was following the campaign against 
the religious orders. 1 At all events the proofs of the first 
four chapters were not sent to Messrs. Chatto till July 10, 
on which date the novelist wrote to Vizetelly that the serial 
issue would begin in "L'Aurore" on September 10. About 
this time, July, Zola had completed the actual writing of 
the work, and revised the proofs of Book I, the first forty 
pages of which were as good as anything he had ever 
penned. But as the work proceeded its hybrid character 
became manifest. As the Affaire Flamidien had suggested 
itself to Zola's mind it would have been better if the crimi- 
nal part of the work had been confined to it. The grafting 
of the Dreyfus case upon another one led to various diffi- 
culties in the narrative, and the very restraint which Zola 
imposed upon himself in his veiled account of the real Affair 
was prejudicial to the general effect. In the writer's opin- 
ion the best part of the work was that describing the con- 

1 In the early parts of this year, 1902, Messrs. Eaoul de Saint- Arroman 
and Charles Hugot produced a dramatic version of ' La Terre " which at- 
tracted considerable attention. Some scenes were certainly interesting, "but 
the play was deficient in cohesion. The same authors had previously adapted 
"Au Bonheur des Dames" for the stage. Subsequent to Zola's death. M. de 
Saint- Arroman related in "Le Siecle" that on being asked what percentage 
of the author's rights in those plays should be paid to him the novelist had 
answered, " Whatever you like." Zola's enemies often insinuated that his 
nature was a grasping one in money as in other matters, but there was no truth 
whatever in the charge. 


flict between tlie hero Marc and his wife, Genevifeve, the 
former a free-thinker, the latter a product of Catholic train- 
ing, who after forgetting her faith amid her love, remem- 
bered it when the question of training and educating her 
daughter arose. 

In that connection it may be mentioned that while Zola 
was in England during the Dreyfus case, he and Vizetelly in 
their strolls together discussed such matters more than once. 
Vizetelly had occasion to mention incidents well within his 
knowledge, which showed what serious trouble sometimes 
supervened when husband and wife were not of the same 
belief. Those conversations were doubtless remembered by 
Zola while he was writing " Vrit," in which, however, he 
described a far more dramatic and more painful situation 
than had been sketched to him. Chats of that kind led to 
discussions on religion generally. Vizetelly having men- 
tioned various changes which had come over him in matters 
of belief, Zola replied by recounting some of his own expe- 
riences. Baptised a Catholic, he had made his First Com- 
munion, and though it was not true that he had ever been 
a choir-boy he had walked in religious processions. But 
a little later, rejecting now one dogma and now another, 
he had gradually freed himself from all such bonds, merely 
clinging for a time to such Deism as Voltaire suggested when 
he said or wrote : " Si Dieu rfexistait pas il faudrait fin- 
venter." Would Voltaire have used such words, however, if 
he had lived in the nineteenth century, the age of science ? 
Zola thought not. For his part, in religion as in literature 
and other matters, he had been unable to tarry long in any 
half-way house. He had at last largely embraced the Posi- 
tivism which acknowledges only that which is manifest, and 


which neither accepts nor denies that which is hypothesis 
only. Zola had known Littr<3, Wybouroff, and others, and he 
had at least met Pierre Laffitte ; but his creed, apparently, 
had come to him less directly than indirectly, that is filtered 
through the philosophy of Taine. For the rest, as a great 
admirer of M. Berthelot, he was a fervent believer in 
Science. In spite of the many limits to our knowledge 
nowadays, he held that Science would some day succeed in 
solving directly or indirectly the whole riddle of the uni- 
verse. Nevertheless, though he could not believe in the 
supernatural such as it was expounded by the Christian 
churches, he fully understood that many should cling to 
such beliefs in their craving for some certainty and consola- 
tion. It seemed to him monstrous, however, that so many 
grossly superstitious practices should have been grafted on 
the elementary principles of Christianity, and that the Eo- 
man Catholic Church should be primarily an engine of 
political domination. At the same time he held the opin- 
ion that there was far more broadness of views among 
Catholics generally than among Protestants. The latter 
certainly had one good trait, their minds might be nar- 
rower, their self-righteousness might be almost repulsive, but 
their rigidity of principles at least stimulated them to truth- 
fulness, whereof, said Zola, they had given conspicuous proof 
during the Dreyfus case. The French Protestants were 
only a handful, but they possessed the courage of their 
convictions ; they had not hesitated to testify to the truth, 
whatever risk they ran in doing so. 

The reader may think it curious that Zola should have 
expressed himself as a Positivist, and yet have harboured 
sundry petty superstitions, such as were enumerated in a 


previous chapter. That contradiction may well have pro- 
ceeded from the duality of his nature, to which reference has 
been made more than once. However, in the novelist's later 
years the writer never observed any particular trace of the 
curious practices recorded by Dr. Toulouse. He had at least 
largely rid himself of theni. The -cfnly sign he gave of arith- 
momania while he was in England was to count the women's 
hairpins which he saw littering the streets when he took 
his walks abroad ; but he did that, he explained, to occupy 
his mind when he was alone and because he was struck by 
the vast number of hairpins which Englishwomen con- 
trived to lose. Once or twice, too, in conversation he spoke 
of his luck, but people often do that without putting any 
particular faith in luck. In England he had certainly re- 
linquished the practice of fingering things or setting them, in 
particular positions before he left a room, and he gave no 
sign that he was haunted by any fear of death. Of that, on 
the occasions when he was ill, he spoke quite calmly, though 
in the spirit of a man who held that when one died it was 
for ever. At various times he had given some attention to 
spiritualism, but had found no little imposture in it, and 
nothing, said he, had convinced him of the survival of the 
individual soul. 

Throughout the summer of 1902 he remained at Mdan, 
correcting further proofs of "V&ritd," and making a few 
preparations for Justice/' which was to have been the last 
of his " Evangiles." In August he wrote half a dozen times 
to Vizetelly respecting the translation of " Vrit6 " and its 
publication in England and America, Such business letters 
are of little interest, however, to the general public. It may 
just be mentioned that he said on one occasion, " Times are 


still very hard, but one consoles oneself by working " ; the 
reference in this case being less to pecuniary matters than 
to his position in France generally, for he still remained 
under a cloud, as it were, in consequence of his participation 
in the Affair. In the early part of September he once more 
wrote to Vizetelly about " Vrit," and then came silence. 
At that moment, however, there was no occasion for further 
correspondence. So a few weeks passed, Vizetelly steadily 
proceeding with his translation of "V&it" which had 
begun to appear in "Reynolds's Newspaper." But all at 
once, on September 29, telegrams from Paris startled the 
world with the news that Emile Zola had been found dead 
in his bedroom and that his wife had narrowly escaped 
dying with him. Circulation was also given to an absurd 
rumour that the case was one of suicide. On receipt of the 
news, Vizetelly, naturally enough, started for Paris, 

On the previous day, Sunday, September 28, Zola and his 
wife had quitted Mdan to take up their autumn and winter 
quarters at 21 Us Rue de Bruxelles, Paris, of which house 
they rented the ground and the first floors, the upper stories 
being tenanted by other persons, who by means of a com- 
municating doorway came and went by the staircase of the 
adjoining house, in such wise that the Zolas were isolated 
from those who dwelt above them. Their chief apartment 
on the ground floor was a spacious dining-room, with a ve- 
randah whence one looked into a pleasant garden. Upstairs 
were two drawing-rooms, two principal bedrooms, a dressing 
and bath room, and the novelist's study ; and in the winter all 
these apartments were warmed by hot air from an apparatus 
in the cellars. Naturally that apparatus had not been used 
during the summer, and thus the rooms were chilly when 


the Zolas returned from Mddan. A fire was therefore lighted 
in their hedroom with some difficulty, it would seem, for 
the chimney did not draw well. This chimney was com- 
mon "both to the Zolas' bedroom and to some apartments 
overhead, occupied by other tenants, one of whom had re- 
cently had it swept in its upper part. The sweeping, it is 
thought, may have brought down sundry fragments of brick- 
work and cement, which remained obstructing the lower 
part of the chimney, the Zolas on their side having given 
no orders for sweeping it, as, on account of the heating ap- 
paratus in the cellars, it was seldom used by them. In any 
case, whatever may have been the exact cause, the chimney 
was certainly obstructed, and on the evening of September 
28 Madame Zola, observing that the fire burnt very badly, 
expressed an intention of having the chimney examined by 
some workmen who were engaged on various repairs in the 

She and her husband sat down to dinner that evening 
about eight o'clock. They were very hungry and made a 
hearty meal. Then, at an early hour, being somewhat tired by 
their removal from the country to town, they retired to rest. 
At that moment Madame Zola observed that the bedroom 
fire was smouldering, and asked her husband if he wished it 
to be extinguished. He answered that he did not think it 
necessary, for it would soon burn out. Then one or the 
other lowered to within a few inches of the hearth the 
sheet-iron tablier, a kind of screen or shutter with which 
most French fireplaces are provided. They went to bed and 
fell asleep, but about three o'clock in the morning Madame 
Zola suddenly awoke, experiencing a feeling of great oppres- 
sion. Her head was heavy and she was seized with nausea. 


She managed to get out of bed for the purpose of going to 
the adjoining dressing-room, but was no sooner on her feet 
than faintness came over her and she had to cling to the 
bedstead for support. At last she contrived to drag herself 
to the dressing-room, where she was able to breathe more 
freely. But the feeling of nausea persisted, and at last came 
violent vomiting, which kept her in the dressing-room for 
three quarters of an hour. This, however, helped to save 
her life ; and feeling considerably relieved, she quitted the 
dressing-room and returned to bed. Her coming and going 
had wakened her husband, and after scolding a little pet 
dog which slept in the room on an arm-chair, from which it 
had climbed upon the bed, Madame Zola, thinking that she 
heard her husband complain, turned to him and inquired if 
he also felt unwell. " It is curious, but I do," he answered, 
explaining that his symptoms were akin to hers. She 
thereupon suggested that she should summon the servants, 
but he replied : " It is not worth while. "We are both 
suffering from indigestion. It will be nothing, we shall be 
all right to-morrow." Then, intending to open a window or 
go to the dressing-room as his wife had done, he rose, looked 
for his slippers, and took a few steps. But all at once a 
fainting fit came upon him, and he was too far from the 
bedstead to use it as a support. His wife heard him gasp, 
then fall upon the floor. She called him, but he did not 
answer. She wished to go to his help, but again an op- 
pressive stifling sensation suddenly came upon her and she 
was unable to rise or even press the electric bell in order to 
summon assistance. By a last despairing effort she man- 
aged to sit up in bed, but immediately fell back again, 
losing consciousness. That was all she was able to relate 


when she was subsequently questioned ; she could remember 
nothing more. 

At eight o'clock in the morning the two workmen who were 
making repairs in the house arrived, and Madame Monnier, 
the doorkeeper, set them on some quiet little jobs in order 
that her employers- might not be disturbed. They, the Zolas, 
usually rose between eight and nine, but that morning time 
went by and they gave no sign of life. About nine o'clock 
Madame Monnier's husband, one of the two men-servants, 
knocked repeatedly at the bedroom door but obtained no 
answer. He and his wife then became alarmed, and with 
the help of one of the workmen burst the door open. To 
their horror and amazement they saw Zola lying in his night- 
gown on the floor, his feet just touching the rug beside the 
bed. One of the party at once opened a window, while 
Madame Monnier went to the bed where her mistress was 
lying unconscious. There was a second bedstead in the 
room, a small iron one, and to this some of the servants 
carried their master's body, then hurried in search of a 
doctor. The first to arrive was Dr. Marc Berman, a practi- 
tioner of Russian origin, who happened to be in a chemist's 
shop in the vicinity. He at once examined Zola and found 
no signs of life, though the body was still warm. Death 
had occurred little more than an hour previously, in all 
likelihood shortly after eight o'clock. Turning to Madame 
Zola, the doctor found her in an extremely weak state, but 
some hope of saving her remained, and indeed at the expi- 
ration of some twenty minutes the efforts to revive her to 
consciousness began to take effect, though they had to be 
continued for fully another hour. 

Dr. Berman had sent to the chemist's for oxygen, ether, 


and an electrical battery; and in the hope that Zola might 
not he quite dead every possible effort to stimulate life was 
made. Artificial respiration, rhythmical tractoration of the 
tongue, injections of ether, frictions, the application of hot- 
water bottles, the electrisation of the diaphragm, all the 

devices known to medical science were put into practice and 
persevered with for three hours by Dr. Berman and Drs. 
Lenormand and Main, who joined him. But nothing had 
any effect: Zola was indeed dead. 1 

Meantime telegrams were despatched to the novelist's 
intimate friends and his wife's relatives. The district Com- 
missary of Police who had been summoned, communicated 
with the Prefect, and an official inquiry into the tragedy was 
at once ordered. Madame Laborde, a cousin of the Zolas, 
was soon on the spot, followed by M. Oharpentier, M. Fas- 
quelle, M. Desmoulin, and others ; and late in the afternoon 
Madame Zola was removed to Dr. Defaut's Maison de SantxS 
in the Avenue du Roule, Neuilly, in such wise that the 
investigations were pursued in all freedom. The bedroom 
chimney proved to be both defective and obstructed ; and 
when a fire was lighted and some guinea-pigs were left in 
the room for a night, the animals, though still alive on the 
morrow, were then found in a hebetated state. 2 Meantime 

1 The pet dog which had slept in the bedroom was in a very weak state, 
but it had vomited during the night, and this may hare helped to save it. 
Another little dog which had remained in the dressing-room had not been ill. 
2 The statement current in some newspapers at the time that the fire which 
had such a fatal result was of artificial fuel such as compressed coal dust was 
inaccurate. Coal was employed, and the writer believes it to have been Welsh, 
anthracite, for Zola bought such coal in considerable quantities, chiefly for the 
electric light installation at Me* dan, whither it was brought up the Seine by 
barge from Kouen. That such coal would not burn well in a defective chim- 
ney is certain. It ignites with difficulty unless there be a good current of air. 


an examination of Zola's remains was made, the doctors 
afterwards reporting that all the vital organs were sound, 
though the blood was saturated with oxide of carbon. 1 This, 
it may be mentioned, fixes on the globules of the blood, 
whence it expels all oxygen, thereby producing drowsiness, 
numbness, and at last a species of paralysis. Perhaps in 
Zola's case the blood-poisoning may not have been the only 
cause of death ; for it is possible that he might have sur- 
vived in spi